Editorials and Opinions

Death of an industry

By Alice Lee
Published: February 2010

You’ve most likely seen in the news, ironically, something about the decline of the newspaper industry.

As someone who comes from Colorado, I was more interested than most teenagers around here to hear that the Rocky Mountain News ceased publication in February of last year. But, as Bernie Lincicome, a Rocky Mountain sports columnist, told the Wall Street Journal, “Most of us thought it was a matter of time. No one buys newspapers.

The Rocky Mountain News is not the only newspaper that has shut down in the past three years. The list includes the Tucson Citizen, the Baltimore Examiner, the Kentucky Post, the Cincinnati Post, the King County Journal, the Albuquerque Tribune, the South Idaho Press, and the San Juan Star. To name only a few.

The cold hard facts are that newspaper subscriptions are dwindling and, consequently, the revenues they receive from advertising are in decline. In the year 2008 alone, the newspaper business lost $7.5 billion in ad revenues, leading to a $1.6 billion reduction in annual spending on journalism.

This translates to fewer newspapers, fewer perspectives, fewer expressions of human thought. As in Denver, a town that once benefited from two newspapers, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, regions will have to make do with a single print news source. Furthermore, the newspapers that are most likely to fold are the smallest daily papers that covered local news that would receive no attention otherwise.

It also translates to the photographers, editors, printers, writers, columnists, marketers, and the umpteen others who work in tandem with the newspapers losing their jobs. It means that newly-graduated journalism majors and current journalism students will have a hell of a time getting on their feet.

Now, if you’re still reading thus far, first of all, congratulations. You’re doing better than the 9.7 million readers who fell out of regular newspaper-readership between April 2008 and April 2009!

Second, I assume you’re wondering about digital publication.

To begin, most news blogs up and running at the moment depend on print media for information, and professional news websites rely on the manpower and revenue of their print medium to maintain their site.

The common misconception is that newspapers are being edged out by their digital counterparts’€but the truth is, the biggest factor has been the decline in advertising revenue.

If digital news is to fill the void left by print’€and, by the way, the increased readership of online news does not compensate for the decrease in print media readership’€then it’ll need money to operate. And it begs the question whether people are willing to pay for Internet news.

Even further, consider the vastness of the Internet and the facility with which anyone who understands a keyboard and a mouse can post something online. In fact, click and drag an NBC logo onto it, and it looks damn near legitimate.

You’ll get in hot water with the NBC legal team, but what I’m getting at is the fact that anyone can post anything online without any kind of requirement of proof of legitimacy. As a medium for news, the Internet is an unreliable source unless there is print media to back it.

A nation-wide’€and surely globe-wide’€trend like the decline of the newspaper is one that, as Lincicome implied, may very well be inevitable. Ultimately, America might just have to face a Götterdämmerung‘€literally, a “twilight of the gods, and figuratively, the downfall of what was once a great industry.

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