newspapers: devalued and devolved

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I am my father’s son in many ways I guess but one example is that I like to read newspapers as he did. We always got two newspapers in our house – the morning paper (the Courier Express) and the afternoon paper (the Buffalo Evening News). Around 1982-83, the Courier folded and Buffalo became a one newspaper town…seemingly before that became the national norm.

I’m a morning paper guy. When I travel (usually in the morning), I bring four newspapers with me on the plane to catch up on the days news and to get different perspectives.

You’d have to have been on a deserted island for the past few years not to know the terrible plight newspapers have been in (and this was before the economy tanked). Circulation is down (thank you internet) so ad sales are down and all major newspapers are scrambling to keep from folding. Some majors, like the Seattle Post Intelligencer couldn’t hold out – it has since gone all on-line.

Two newspaper stories caught my eye recently. One made me sad and the other confirmed my suspicions.

If you had worked in radio at all for the past 30 years, you’ve likely read Radio and Records. Well as of June 5, 2009, Radio and Records newspaper is dead, kaput, straight-lined. I had not read the paper in years as I couldn’t justify the subscription rate versus other business expenses. That didn’t mean it wasn’t a great paper. It was terrific.

But think about how big media chains are simply doling out play lists to their stations, homogenizing all their on air content seemingly ignoring true localization, trying to cut costs (mostly people) while their ad sales plummet and you can see why all that radio static doesn’t bode well for a newspaper dedicated to covering this sadly sinking medium. It’s just another stake in the heart of radio that depresses me. I’m probably being too nostalgic.

When publications have to start selling assets to make ends meet as The New York Times has done you know the newspaper industry’s problems are pretty severe. When it comes to New York City newspapers, I’ve always been a New York Post guy. The New York Times always came across as kinda “holier-than-thou” and I don’t trust people or institutions like that. And if you’re “the newspaper of record” as people and the Times itself sees the publication, you cannot be seen to have an angle on a story or an ax to grind.

So when I read this first-hand account by Michael Arrington of Tech Crunch about an interview he did recently with the New York Times and how the story ultimately came out, I just was not surprised. “All the news that’s fit to print” implies that the New York Times knows what’s best. Based on the Arrington incident and numerous other journalistic blunders by the New York Times, the publication is only the newspaper of THEIR record, how they want to news to appear and that’s not professional journalism.

Does the Radio and Records or New York Times issues bug you too or is it just me?

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