Saturday, September 04, 2004

They Crossed a Line

The Warsh article mentioned below contemplates the evolution of the newspaper industry and brings to light the little discussed competition among papers in what he labels "the explanation space":
the lofty region where short-term causal explanations of events are forged.
by their very nature, newspapers also exist to communicate a sense of proportion. A good deal of their impact derives from the way they choose to play a story.

Warsh also highlights the apprehension that newspapermen feel as they watch the demographic trends.
Great anxiety abounds today in the industry about what will happen as the next generation of technology is thoroughly built out. Clearly, many young readers prefer to get their news from the Web rather than paper and ink. And anyone witnessing the wholesale vertical disintegration of the broadcast television industry has to acknowledge the possibility that advertisers may find more advantageous ways of reaching the audiences that they seek.

This uneasiness is made worse by pocketbook concerns. For the guild, jobs are at stake:
The Financial Times shows how a cosmopolitan world view can be constantly refreshed and communicated on a shoe-string - barely three hundred full-time editorial employees around the world are required to put it out. But the bigger papers would prefer not to cut their editorial staffs of a thousand persons or more. No one willingly prunes that much.

All of this helps to explain the vicious columns Jim Boyd of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. wrote in response to the op-ed piece by the guys at Powerline.

From Boyd's perspective, it is bad enough that blogging barbarians compete against him in "explanation space." Once, bloggers were easy to dismiss because their readership is small. The situation became worse when the collective weight of blogger opinion and reporting forced the MSM to cover the questions about Kerry, Cambodia, and his war record. That was a sign that his side was losing its ability to determine what was newsworthy.

Hindrocket and The Big Trunk went further. Their op-ed column usurped the journalist's 'rightful role" and appeared on the pages of Boyd's own paper. The barbarians had breached the walls and were roaming free inside the city. Boyd reacted like an Edwardian butler who discovered a group of Welsh miners gathered in the grand dining hall. It is not what they did; it is that they were there at all.

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