Friday, July 26, 2013

David Simon | The Koch brothers and The Baltimore Sun

David Simon | The Koch brothers and The Baltimore Sun

"The second criteria is one that I would apply — and do apply — as well to the national newspaper corporation who decades ago began scarfing up America’s locally owed newspapers and stringing them into corporate chains, congealing the nuance and idiosyncracy of various American cities into a generic product.  And then, armed with an economy of scale, they took their monopolistic creations to Wall Street, where the analysts explained to them that by cutting costs — reporters, news hole, coverage — they could actually make more money putting out a weaker, shittier newspaper than a good one.  Wall Street was right in the short term.  Wall Street is always right in the short term.  The long-term health of an industry?  The future beyond the next fiscal quarter?  Sustained economic growth?  Not really the Street’s problem anymore.

No, for the long term, print journalism was showing contempt for its own product — and for its connection to the cities and regions that it claimed to serve.  And when the internet then arrived, and newspapers needed to demand a real revenue stream from within the new delivery model, they had already eviscerated themselves.  Unsure of their own product, they gave it away, and foolishly so.  And now, it is a long hard fight to maintain and restore that weakened product through the obvious, inevitable and belated advent of the newspaper paywall.

You would have to look long and hard to find an industry in which the captains so thoroughly butchered their own future.  Not even the American auto industry in the 1970s, with its Gremlin- and Pacer-adorned contempt for the American consumer fully on display, did as poorly.  After all, Detroit lost out to the Japanese and Germans, and lets face it, to the better cars that were actually being built overseas.  The newspaper industry took a beating from the internet, which, while democratizing commentary, has proven itself thus far incapable of providing much in the way of first-generation beat reporting and high-end journalism, save for what it leaches from mainstream media.  If only the newspapers themselves had, in the run-up to digitization, maintained the substance and validity of their actual product."

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