Tuesday, September 04, 2012
Boring and biased is no way to go through life
The Harrisburg Patriot-News just announced that they will publish only three days a week beginning in January 2013. The editor, Cate Barron, discussed the reasons for this move with our local NPR station (listen here)
As Ms. Barron explained the new strategy, she focussed on forces beyond the control of the paper-- rising production and logistical costs, falling advertising revenue, demographic trends.
They did not discuss one of the few trends that journalists can directly influence: falling public trust in newspapers and journalists. According to Pew Research the credibility of major news organizations is at its lowest point ever measured (they started tracking this in 2002.
This seems important. Newspapers need more paying customers. Yet many potential and former customers view them with suspicion and think that the product is tainted.
The response of most journalists when faced with this problem is to explain it away. Journalism is fine, it is the public that's biased or stupid. This head in the sand posture is an odd stance for a profession that is supposed to look hard facts right in the eye.
They remind me of GM circa 1982. Faced with declining sales and evidence that the public was shifting to foreign cars, Detroit blamed everything and everybody but themselves. It was the high dollar, unfair trade practices, customers who did not know what was good for them, governmental regulations.....
The excuses kept coming while Detroit kept shrinking.
I expect that the MSM will share the same fate.
Most newspapers also suffer because they are boring. One that isn't is the UK's Daily Mail. Not surprisingly, it is enjoying growing readership both on paper and on the web. Its website has more readers that the New York Times.