TCS Daily


By Alvaro Vargas Llosa - October 2, 2006 12:00 AM

Every so often, the print media go into panic about the print media. Recently The Economist magazine yelled "Who Killed the Newspaper?'' on its front cover, while The New York Times looked into the sale of Knight Ridder, America's second-largest newspaper chain, treating the story like a bellwether of the newspaper industry.

I remember sitting round a table in my capacity as op-ed page editor for one of the Knight-Ridder papers in the early 1990s, listening to Tony Ridder, the chief executive, explain that technology was rendering newspapers as we knew them obsolete. We needed to adapt to the coming revolution: digital, interactive, customized information flows. Twelve years later, Ridder is the victim of what he so eloquently predicted. Forced by Private Capital Management, an important shareholder, he had to agree to the sale of the empire after trying all the options -- cutting costs, buying back shares, dumping a few papers. And off went Knight-Ridder, with its 32 papers and a combined circulation of 3.7 million, to the McClatchy Co.

With exceptions such as China and India, the (slow) decline of the newspaper business is a worldwide trend. The big mistake that newspapers in America, Europe and Latin America have made in response to the new environment is to treat this trend as a financial and a technological challenge rather than a cultural phenomenon.

The newspaper industry's response over the past decade -- and Knight-Ridder is a good example, but not the only one -- has consisted mainly of two things: restructuring finances and providing online versions of print products. Everything else -- including the creation of new businesses under their famed brands or going into cable TV -- was intended to salvage the traditional way of providing news. The result is, well, the "whodunit" yell.

The cultural change taking place with regard to information amounts to a decentralization of power. Steve Greenhut of The Orange County Register in Southern California put it nicely when he wrote that "this is the equivalent of the Protestant Reformation for the media, where every man can become his own pope, or in this case his own publisher.''

The technology has helped accelerate this change, just as technology helped accelerate the transition from an agricultural to an industrial society or from an industrial to a service-dominated society. But technology is just a means. The crux of the matter is the people's perception that power is now in their hands. The barriers to entry into the information market have fallen and now citizens don't depend on editors to publicize their views or their stories.

The newspaper industry has for the most part been treating the new technology like an end in itself, thinking that the combination of a well-known brand and a slick Website would do the trick. Well, those Web sites have attracted online readers but they have not improved the medium-term prospects of their sister organizations. Internet advertising revenues account on average for no more than 10 percent of total ad revenues because online readers of newspapers still have small value for advertisers. Newspapers need to expand their Internet readership very substantially and, particularly, persuade their online readers to stay hooked to their digital versions much longer. The way to do that is to embrace the cultural change.

People want more control over what they read, watch or hear. Some organizations have understood this. For instance, South Korea's OhmyNews offers an online newspaper written by what it calls the "citizen reporter," meaning that anyone can send in news stories that will then be vetted by a staff of about 50 editors. Not every story gets printed, but the paper now has more than 40,000 reporters. That is just one example.

Vin Crosbie, an online news consultant, says that the "mass customization of each day's edition'' is the only way to save newspapers. By that he means not just customizing the delivery of news through the Internet and portable devices, but also using digital presses to print thousands of customized editions.

Folks have discovered that they can make for themselves the type of selection that the traditional newspaper has made for them since the 17th century. Readers realize they can participate in the selection process by creating their own information mix. For the moment, this means jumping from one online outlet to the other according to the various items the reader seeks.

In the old days, they used to call it choice and freedom. Today we call it murder. But nobody killed the newspaper. It's just that information, which used to flow from the top down, is now starting to flow from the bottom up.

Alvaro Vargas Llosa, author of "Liberty for Latin America," is the director of the Center on Global Prosperity at the Independent Institute. His e-mail address is



Train commuters like newspapers
Those of us who commute to work by train read newspapers. Up here in the US northeast new local newspapers are given away free to transit riders. The content of these startups is wretched, but reading even a wretched paper beats staring out the window for the entire ride to work. So, the medium counts, reading a paper on a moving train is reasonable, reading the news off a laptop or blackberry is not.
Content also counts. Many well known US newspapers are written by ill educated, fundamentally ignorant, and shallow reporters. Most journalists know little or nothing of history, geography, culture, military affairs, business, construction, technology, or science. The stories they serve up to readers bring little trustworthy information, and merely serve as a vehicle to preach the reporter's personal viewpoints. It is difficult to take the viewpoints of such ignorant people seriously, and the constant repetion of leftist cant is boring.
The honorable exception is the Wall St Journal, which I still take, and which enjoys the largest circulation of any paper in the US, by a margin of 2:1. The Journal's reporters display a significantly better knowledge of their subjects than alsoran's like the NY Times, Wash Post or Boston Globe. In fact the quality of the Globe dropped sharply after the NY Times bought the paper. The Journal's rightist views are confined to the editorial page and do not distort its news stories.
Newspapers need to plan for the loss of classified adverising to the Internet. The search capabilities of computers make it far easier for buyers to find what they are looking for than poring over paper after paper of tiny print. Ebay and Craigslist offer color photographs of even the rustiest jalopy for sale, which the tiny black print of newspaper classifieds do not.

Reorganize, rethink
Most of the web sites that I have visited, that are tied to newspapers, tend to organize their websites like newspapers.

The home page has a few big stories, the ones the editors think are important, then there are links (sometimes well hidden) to the other sections of the paper, sports, business, etc.

The technology is available to track what I read, and present first, those articles that are similar to ones that I have shown interest in, in the past.

Beyond that the home page (in my opinion) should be organized as an information finder.

Finally, the format of the articles needs to be rethought. In the past, column inches were a precious commodity. Since the paper couldn't get too big, articles had to be kept short.
Column inches are now cheap. There is not as great a need to edit out information. Present a concise summary of the article in the fist paragraph or two, then give all of the details, not just the ones the editor thinks are important.

I think the death of newspapers is pre-mature. I subscribe to the local paper whereever I happen to live because I like to read it in the morning. However, I don't read the national or international news (I get that from the internet). Rather, I like to read all of the local stuff. I also like to know what events are going on as well.

It is true that the icons such as NY Times and LA Times are rushing their way into the junk bins. However, the Oregonian or Spokesman Review are still doing just fine.

If the papers shift their focus onto the local news and activities, they will do just fine.

Indian newspaper are on deathbed
Hindu one of leading newspaper of India introduced his edition on online free of charge.Soon other newspaper will follow this trend.
Up till now all newspapers [english and regional laguage] are treating reader as a slave, read what we publish, no right to reader to protest againist them,really they are not newspaper,they are slave of capitalist, political scoundrels. All editors are pimp. they give publicity to those who pay cash to them.
Iam very thankful to internet who is destroying this dirty business.

Is there anyone, other than yourself, who you don't find evil and disgusting?

Article off a bit
I can't say this enough; technology is not the driver behind the death of BIG Newspapers; smaller newspapers and new publications are. Internet readers, with a relative handful of exceptions, also read paper publications. The virtual explosion of small niche publications, from newspapers to shoppers to magazines, is the reason for the demise of the big, national dailies.

I'm constantly amazed when newspaper people tout technology as the reason for newspaper's losing circulation. Radio didn't do much damage, T.V. didn't do much damage, but the internet is suddenly murdering newspapers? Somehow I doubt this.

Sure, the combined assualt has taken the power away from the New York Times; but that has been going on for nearly 100 years. So?

It might surprise some, but newspapers have been changing the way they do business for years in response to this trend; but it has been the little weeklies, and 5-day dailies in small markets leading the way. The problem is biggies like the NY Times try to buy the competition when they should try competing. Try offering a wider range of publications, try innovating and beating others to the niche.

I worked for a small (3,500 circulation) weekly that offered up, besides the weekly newspaper, a weekly shopper, a quarterly health and fitness magazine, a bi-annual activities guide, an annual wedding guide, an annual business special, a Christmas Special, three seasonal prep sports guides, a monthly entertainment guide, a graduation special and local celebration (usually 3) guides. They also did special sections for events that cropped up during the year. All of these were inserted into the newspaper and put out in newsstands for free distribution. Here's the kicker; all of this with a total staff of 12.

Our regional daily has more than 10 times the staff and puts out a handful of speciality publications at best. (If they do more than that they certainly don't insert all of them into the newspaper)

People read, but you have to give them something they want to read. By diversifying what you offer, you interest all those in your community. Durring the three years I worked at this newspaper our circulation grew from approx. 3,200 to approx. 3,700. That growth continued for, at least, two years after I left (I lost track after that).

Small market newspapers are seeing a growth in circulation in areas where there is population stability or growth. This is especially true of those who do all they can to diversify their publication and come up with new ideas.

I laugh at the "death knell" of the New York Times and the other very large newspapers; may they rest in peace.

that is certainly part of "the fix"
If the NY Times would focus on becoming New York City's newspaper, they could probably double their subscription base. There are some other things they should do as well (see my post below), but you have the right idea!

radio and TV aren't comparable
Radio and TV have to be consumed at a time of the broadcasters choosing. Newspapers can be read when you want. So can the internet.

Radio and TV, you have to sit through articles that you aren't interested in, in order to get the ones you are interested. (Linear delivery.) Newspapers are random access. You can skip over articles you aren't interested in and go directly to those you are. The same with the internet.

The internet also has the advantage that you can get articles from all over the world, newspapers are limited to the articles the editors choose to make available to you.

No Subject
Thanks for the excellent article. In Germany, the overbearing complacency of the incumbent newspaper may still have a new lease of life because of the growing proportion of well-off elderly people attached to the old format. At the same time, many (including young) people here regard change as a form of social injustice, "sleeping through" the time when adjustments should be prepared and tried. I welcome the death of newspapers, not least in view of the fact that the press (to an incredibly large extent) simply copy or reword what a small number of oligopolistic news agencies offer them.

My sole worry is that the Internet will soon come under the "regulation", the tax regime and the growing tutelage of government. Someone will find a way to demonstrate that this is needed to protect us from terrorists and the social injustice (see above) threatening the inert (see above).

Everyone his own publisher
The trend sweeping the LA Times and the McClatchy and Knight-Ridder chains, among others, is due to their transformation from being sources of actual news about local, national and world events, to being mere profit centers owned by corporations. As a result they are being gravely downsized, with budgets for actual news bureaus slashed and ads greatly increased, in an effort to boost profits. Take a look at their pages-- where there used to be ads in a sea of stories there are now stories in a sea of ads. The pure volume of column inches has diminished greatly, and quality journalists are everywhere being laid off.

"The cultural change taking place with regard to information amounts to a decentralization of power. Steve Greenhut of The Orange County Register in Southern California put it nicely when he wrote that "this is the equivalent of the Protestant Reformation for the media, where every man can become his own pope, or in this case his own publisher.''

This sounds great. But the only function this man in pajamas can perform is to write his own op-ed page. Gathering his own news is a different task. Is he likely to travel to Afghanistan, or to the floor of the NYSE, to take a look for himself? I doubt it. Therefore, in the absence of available on the spot reporting, his views on the subject have limited value.

"People want more control over what they read, watch or hear."

Are we supposed to now vote on which stories get published? And if a majority only wants good news about the wars, or the economy, are we to stop reporting any unpleasant news for fear of offending them?

I fear a brave new world, where empty opinions are triumphant and actual information is minimized. When information starts flowing from the bottom up objectivity has been lost, and no one knows anything about the important events of the day. Newspapers will become just free advertisers, and there will be no basis for any of us to distinguish truth from lies.

Which state of affairs will be very profitable for some people.

This is funny
"I fear a brave new world, where empty opinions are triumphant and actual information is minimized."

Coming from a man who specializes in empty, fact free, opinions.

I see roy is still blaming every ill in the world on the profit motive.

Why does one organization have to have people in every corner of the world?
When I want information on what's happening in Bonn, I'll look up the blog of some pajamas guy who lives in Bonn.

Currently what we get is the opinion of some overpriced anchor who was parachuted in only after it became apparent that something newsworthy was happening.

For a refreshing alternative...
... you might try reading a book. Libraries near you even offer them on loan free of charge. And the quality of your reading material will be immensely better than what is found in a third rate free newspaper.

This is one of the nicer amenities local governments do for their residents. The busy reader can even order up his requested books on line, and have them delivered to his local branch. Then he can be notified when the book is in. This saves one the trouble of browsing, and puts the entire contents of the system at one's fingertips.

All business
The demise of quality reporting is one ill that can certainly be blamed on the profit motive. Journalism used to just aspire to reach the minds of its public, pay the bills and salaries, and maybe do a bit better than break even after that.

The Tribune Company, parent of the beleaguered LA Times, also owns television and radio stations, a cable network and a ball club. So in order to stay alive, the paper has to compete with these other investments in being a healthy profit center. It may be the American way, but it's no way to purvey a quality news product.

BTW you may disagree with my opinions, but they are far from fact free.

Bull squeezings
The decline of quality journalism has nothing to do with the profit motive, and everything to do with the capture of J schools by the lunatic left.

People stopped reading the LA Times because they got tired of being preached at by a group of far left wing nutcakes who couldn't tell the difference between their ill-thought out opinions and the facts.

The decline of newspapers
People are still reading the LA Times. Circulation has only dropped about 5.5%, comparable to the drop for other comparable papers. The likely explanation for such a drop around the country is that more people are getting their news on the web.

People like you, who rail away at the leftist press, haven't been buying this or any other paper in the first place. They are as statistically insignificant to circulation advances and declines as are the illiterate.

You are partly right.
As I recall, most of the newspapers in India were state-owned until very recently. That is the problem with state-ownership. State-owned businesses are generally slow to innovate, monopolistic and are operated as cash sources for the people who run them, they are not operated "for the people."

Capitalism is not the problem, the state is the problem. In a capitalist economy, the papers would have to respond to reader desires. Here, newspapers like the Wall Street Journal sell more copies than the New York Times because more people want to read what the capitalists at the Journal say than what the socialists at the Times say. Here, they cannot treat the people as slaves, because the people are the ones who choose what paper, if any, they will buy. If the newspapers are state-run, they can focue on whatever the state wants them to focus on without having to worry about competition. If you really want the newspapers that are more responsive to you and what you want to hear, then support capitalism at every opportunity.

It's not about news or ideology. It's about classifieds
The main economic competion isn't from other purveyors of journalism. It's from craigslist and other ways to sell cars, real estate, and more.

Ten years ago, every paper in the country carried huge quantities of highly profitable classified ads. Many people used to buy the papers for the classifieds when they were shopping for a car. Now they are an anachronism, shrinking further every day. That's the main point of economic weakness.

As for ideology -- give me a break. If ideology were the reason why papers like the Times and Post were losing readers, you'd expect that we'd be seeing a huge buildup of rightwing competing papers growing fat on their dissatisfied readers. Call me a blind ideolog, but I don't see the Washington Times or the New York Post as showing up the competion in the ad market.

True Mark
But the internet has been something of a flop financially for those trying to make it a media outlet. It's potential is limitless, but advertising buyers have yet to really latch onto it.
And it is another place where newspapers are poised to lead the way.

Many have some of the best looking, easily navigated websites out there. None of them are worth spit financially. Still, every little newspaper I know has one. As a group they are poised to take over this market if they can ever up-sell it to a profitable level.

No, I don't see the internet as anything but a potential tool for newspapers (and other MSM outlets as well).

It is also another area where niche publications (often referred to as bloggers) are taking over. Big time, big media is probably a dying animal; for now. The furure is diversification and small outlets. The world is now covered by a billion individuals with webcams and internet access. The future will be interesting indeed.

But I believe newspapers in particular will survive and come out the other end stronger, quicker, better and much changed. Time will tell.

worse he is full of crap
The reason the newspaper is "tighter" is declining revenue per ad inch. More money per ad inch would equal fewer ads per page needed to cover expenses; the same number of ads in more pages. Declining readership at the big papers has led to declining revenue through ad sales.

Funny, the small publications are going the opposite way. In the 80s and 90s the "rule of thumb" was 50% ads and 50% news in a weekly. Now many are doing more pages and about a 40-60 split because they are getting away with charging more.

What happens at the NY Times does not reflect the newspaper business as a whole; anymore than Walmart sales reflect Toys 'R Us and K-Mart or the rest of the retail business.

There is one point he does have. The reason small newspapers remain largely independently owned is that they are not "profitable" in the corporate sense; I.E. you can't fire 25% of the workforce and shut down some of your plants for a while to increase profits; nor can you guarantee increased revenue through any means. It is a whimsical business and you have to ride the wave or get sucked under. Good ad sales people are worth their weight in gold and are able to read the buying trends and desires of their customers.

That is why he has a point, he just doens't understand what it is. The biggest danger to the NY Times is this corporate attitude of increasing profit through downsizing. They would be better served by trying to improve their product, even if they had to operate at a break-even level for a while.

Hey roy, your wrong here
i worked for a newspaper group owned by Lee Enterprises. Whil Lee owned the papers their offerings, and circulation, increased significantly. They were well managed and managed for maximum profit. Most of the editorial people complained like crazy at being overworked and no appreciation given to editorial content.

Then Lee sold them.

Ironically, the new owners came in a got rid of all the management level people (Editors ad sales managers and up [many of which were moderate lefties or flat moderates]), brought in and/or hired their left leaning preferred staff and now the combined circulation is off between 25% and 35% in less than 3 years. Of the five papers in the group, only the one where they kept the (moderate) editor is holding it's ground.

it is funny how they, like a lot of people in the business, blame the decline on everything but their granola eating, tree hugging, quickly turning far-left staff.

L.A. Times circulation is off 5.5% over the last year or so; Wanna bet it is off by a lot more than that from it record high? Sorry, you can't blame the internet for a decline that began before the internet was a reality.

The net isn't the problem roy, these are the problems:
1. First and foremost the big papers have become unappologetically further left leaning since the 1960s. This actually helped increase readership (especially among younger people) in the 70s, then the declines began in ernest. People are flat turned off by, and are turning away from, biased media. They can do this because of…
2. Infinate alternatives. Niche newspapers, magazines, newsletters, the internet and even radio and TV give people choices they've never had before. Turning away from the big MSM is one area where conservatives, moderates, and far-left nutcases agree. More and more these old-style big news outlets appeal only to the liberal middle. Far-left liberals actually think the MSMs are conservative for crud sake!
3. Declining circulation, combined with increased competition, has watered down the customer base. People are no longer willing to pay as much for ads (comparably) as they used to. Many businesses may have even larger advertising budgets, but they are spreading the money around much more than they used to. Even guys who firmly believe in printed advertising now put their ads in three, five eight different publications instead of just one or two.
4. The one place I agree with you is corporate intervention. It worked well for many years, but the drive to keep stock prices up, increase dividends and improve profit margins simply doesn't hold up in the news business (the reason Lee sold the group of small papers I referred to). It is a fickle vixen with a lot of ups and downs. You have to work the ups like crazy and ride out the downs. The idea of huge staffing cuts when you are not posting red ink (and I mean spending more than you make, not declining profits) is just crazy talk to me. The NY Times will never gain back the losses they've created with these cuts. It may very well kill them in the end. Most news orgainzations know how to change to keep up, but it seems the big corporate outfits are just not nimble enough to keep up in the high tech age. The next 20 years will tell the tale. If the Big news outlets (not just the NY Times but network news, and the big news gathering groups like AP, UPI and Reuters) figure out where they are going wrong they can stop the bleeding.

Finally, I have worked at several newspapers as well as some radio and TV. Every outlet I worked for that had an "open minded" (read that as truly moderate) mindset saw increases in circulation and revenue. Those that were biased (almost all liberal) were dying and struggling to stop the declines. It is my nearly 20 years of experience that tells me liberal = trouble in the news business. Even the one truly conservative outlet I worked for held it's own; the bleeding was there, but it was light and manageable.

Classy hasn't been a big part of advertising revenue at most papers, big or small, for years. The drive in ad sales has, for at least the 20+ years I've been involved in and/or paid close attention to, been "display ads". Newspapers do not pay salesmen to go out and sell classifieds in most cases (in fact, I've never heard of that, but it may exist in some huge markets).

And classified ads are not highly profitable as you claim. They are usually minimally profitable. Most newspapers sell a 25 word classy (which takes up roughly a column inch) for less than they do a display ad by column inch. They also give pretty good breaks for multiple runs that they don't give for display ads. Typically a newspaper that charges $10 a column inch for a display ad, charges about $8 for a 25 word classy and then give a break of 20% or more for additional runs (most I've worked for give about 25%). The newspaper usually averages about 70% of display rate on a per inch basis. That $10 a column inch, with a break for larger ads, this particular newspaper will make over $1,000 on a full page display ad but generally pull in around $700 to $800 on a page of classifieds.

Now some papers do make good money on their classifieds; I even know of one that routinely had 10 pages of classifieds and, on average, 5 pages combined display ads (in a 30= page newspaper). They made about $5,000 an issue on classy and under $4,000 on display; but they are the exception and not the rule in my experience.

Then this is just silly - "As for ideology -- give me a break. If ideology were the reason why papers like the Times and Post were losing readers, you'd expect that we'd be seeing a huge buildup of rightwing competing papers growing fat on their dissatisfied readers. Call me a blind ideolog, but I don't see the Washington Times or the New York Post as showing up the competion in the ad market."

It just shows how much you aren't paying attention. Many of these big dailies are now facing stiff competition from small weeklies, bi-weeklies, 5-day dailies, etc. in their circulation areas. Many of these are the very right-wing competition you are saying doesn't exist. Some are left wingnut, some are simple niche publications. All are the reason the big boys are bleeding badly; it isn't the internet, silly, it is goold old competition. And the left bias is helping drive that rise in competition.

We clearly disagree
1. the revenue is only one part of it. classified ads also attract buyers; not subscribers, but daily buyers, job seekers, car seekers, house seekers and so on, which translates to circulation, which translates to higher ad rates.

As for this:

>Many of these big dailies are now facing stiff competition from small weeklies, bi-weeklies, 5-day dailies, etc. in their circulation areas. Many of these are the very right-wing competition you are saying doesn't exist.

This has been true for decades. A few are right wing, but damn few. And you are avoiding a very simple question: if ideology is the driver, why aren't we seeing the Washington Times, (say) soaring.

> it isn't the internet,

which brings up another element. The online versions of the Times, Post, etc. multiply the impact of the news coverage greatly. You can read it without paying for it. This doesn't help the bottom line of the paper (though it's getting better, as the internet ads come in), but it does belie the notion that the widespread downturn in newspaper circulation is based on ideology.

Classified ads = 40 percent of newspaper revenue
Here's the quote - from a year ago, and things have gotten worse since then. Maybe call Mort Goldstrom, who supplied the information, and let him know that he's delusional.

he trouble for newspapers is clear. Classified ads account for about 40% of the average U.S. newspaper's advertising revenue, according to Mort Goldstrom, vice president of advertising for the Newspaper Association of America. Craigslist is their kryptonite. It competes with newspapers essentially by not competing. Why would customers pay if they don't have to?

According to the Newspaper Association of America, total annual classified ad revenues have dropped since 2000. Estimates peg full-year totals for 2005 at $16 billion — not far off the 1997 level, according to the NAA. Even a booming real-estate market can't stanch the tide; real-estate classified ad revenues dropped last quarter for the first time since 2000.

Red means dead in the news biz
If you haven't noticed, the country is more or less evenly divided among right, left and center. Your observation that most reporters are flagrant lefties skewing their stories in favor of the Marxist line is just an opinion held by a tiny fraction of the public. It does not affect circulation in the least, as people of your inclination never bought mainstream papers like the Washington Post. They buy the Washington Times instead.

The market you were in under Lee was very likely different. Most of Lee's properties were small town papers like the Casper Star-Tribune. In such places it's a lot easier to appeal to a wide segment of the public, and to be responsive to local trends. If the new owners fired long-time editors the readership was comfortable with, and replaced them with big hats from the Noo Yawk City, it wouldn't be surprising to see a drop in circulation. Those pieces on Thai cuisine just don't go over as well as ones on the opening day of hunting season. :)

The most sensible comment that has been made here is by Lemuel, below, in "It's not about news or ideology, it's about classifieds". As a newsman, this is an argument I think you will be able to understand.

Secondarily, time moves on. Papers don't have the same readership they had in 1962 because most of those old people are now dead. Today's young adults don't read the news. Ever. And when they turn on the TV they don't go to straight news programs, they go to Jon Stewart. Or to the sports channels.

Public education, by making the act of reading tedious, has encouraged our national preference for anything that doesn't have to be read. And by making civics also tedious, they have made public affairs indigestible for most, except when played for laughs. What we demand now is info-tainment-- stuff that looks like it means something, but doesn't.

BTW we now have a test case for your thesis, that having a liberal POV is death for a news outlet. Let's see how the numbers work over at the CBS Evening News. The decision to dump Charles Schieffer (in your view, a dangerous Marxist radical) for Katie Couric (an air headed piece of fluff given to gushing chats with Condi and the Prez) should theoretically result in increased viewership. I wonder...

Pauled worked for a newspaper, has actual experience in the industry, but Lemuel seems to think his position as internet crank should be regarded with the same credibility as someone with that first-hand experience.


So what?
Newspapers go through these cycles all the time. Real Estate sales are not booming, they are slumping so classy sales in Real Estate are off a bit. According to your post they are off for the first time since 2000; this is the first true soft real estate market in that time.

I do not know where the NAA comes up with that total. It must be for large market papers only. At most of the weeklies I've worked at subscriptions account for between 15% and 20% of revenue, Classifieds are about 20% to 30%, display ads are the bulk at between 50% and 60% with misc. revenue (photo copies etc.) at between 5% and 10%. At the dailies i've been with, classy is about the same with little or no misc. and subscriptions are between 5% and 15% of revenue. Display is the rest, accounting for at least 60% to 70% of revenue.

Eric, classy are a very important part of a newspaper's revenue stream, but they are not as profitable as display advertising and are, generally, about 50% to 70% of display ad revenue.

I've worked at several different newspapers in several different classes from very small market to medium market. Those papers are generally more conservative (less liberal!?) and are doing pretty well. Few are what I would call "conservative", but they offere a decent balance. As I stated, those that were more liberal are struggling the most and that is most obvious in those who I have tracked that turned more liberal. One paper, for example, that I worked at and still follow pretty closely, went more liberal in 2003 and by 2005 their circulation had dropped from right at 4,000 to under 3,000. That is a whopping 25% loss in 2 years!

I have serious reservations about the NAA if they quote 40% revenue from classy for another reason. The national average for subscription sales (as of 2003) is about 15% and the total for other misc sales is about 7%. That means that the average for display ad sales is just 38%. Why would newspapers put out as much as 50% of their payroll expenses into display ad sales and design if it was such a dog? Why, if newspapers have become such corporate dogs, would they do that and put little or nothing into classy sales?

Yes, other competitors, and even the internet, are having and effect on subscriptions, classy and all revenue. But one of the big reasons for this is the liberal bias, both perceived and real. Newspapers who fail to realize this are doomed to continue the downward spiral.

One thing more; the very large market papers (like the NY Times) are probably going to continue to shrink as a force on the National and International news scene. This is because of many factors and their liberal bias is only a part of it. People simply do not get their news from one source anymore and are turning to publications (paper and electronic) that they feel more comfortable with.

not the point
Some sites aren't making much money, other sites are making a lot of money.

But that wasn't the point.

The point is that the web provides information to people in a way that neither TV nor radio can, and in a way that is much more threatening to newspapers and magazines than TV and radio ever were.

The beauty of the internet, is that these niche players are the new market. There is no need to go to one single player for all of your news anymore. If I want information on computers, I go to a blog that specializes in computers, or several blogs. If I'm looking for politics, or sports, I go to blogs that specialize in them.

Something happening in Europe, I look up blogs that specialize in those areas.

That's only last years drop
The cumulative drop over the last few decades is much larger. At the same time the population in their claimed home market has increased dramatically.

As to the LA Times political bias, that's been proven over and over again.

roy's delusions once again trump reality
Sorry roy, but it's more than a tiny fraction who believe that the MSM is biased left. There's a reason why newspaper reporters are barely above used car salesmen and politicians when it comes to trustability.

The leftward bias of the MSM has also been proven over and over again.

Just because they are to the right of you, doesn't prove that they are moderate, it's just more evidence of how far out in left field you are.

So what??? You say X, statistics say not X, but "so what??"
thanks for the lecture, but the fact remains that classifieds are an important profit center drastically eroded.

And for the rest, please don't put words into my mouth. I didn't say that display was a dog; I simply pointed out that papers were taking a hit on classified ads.

>One thing more; the very large market papers (like the NY Times) are probably going to continue to shrink as a force on the National and International news scene. T

Why? Who else has the resources to cover stories all over the world in depth? You can have lots of guys with keyboard in pajamas spending their nights on the web, but the don't have first-hand access to events and, more important, don't go out to see and can't talk to people who are making news.

People and business still need profuse, accurate informaiton to make decisions. To gather this information, you need large numbers of highly skilled people. And, really, the politics of this are a figment of right-wing imaginations. The bottom line remains the stories.

>People simply do not get their news from one source anymore and are turning to publications (paper and electronic) that they feel more comfortable with.

Which is great. Except that in order to get news from publications, the publications have to have news. Without news staffs, they don't; they just have hot air.

All I did was ctie accurate statistics
If you can prove me wrong, prove me wrong. However, one additional note: we're talking here mostly about large national news organizations. Pauled's experience in small-circulation local publications is significant for what he knows, but not for what he doesn't.

Do you ever watch network news?
More and more of their video feed comes from some guy with a digital camcorder. The funny idea of some guy in his pajamas doing blogs is pretty unrealistic. Many of these people get their own pics and video feeds and ask for even more from friends and others.

The fact is, you are becoming the on-scene reporter more and more already. While the idea that MSMs are going to fade in the dust soon is misleading, the scene is going to change drastically over the next 20 years.

Who needs a staff when a few guys editing pics and information they are told or given can get the job done?

Look, I made this line of work a profession and I believe in professional journalists. I think most of the "guy on the street" stuff is pretty poorly done and I prefer professional reporting and writing. But, all too often (though not a majority by any means), the present "professional" stuff is pretty shoddy too. Too much opinion (the writers and his sources) in what should be hard news reports when it should be "just the facts sir, just the facts"!

I was not putting words in your mouth. I was quoting from actual figures from actual medium to small market newspapers. I know first hand that there are as many people working in ad sales and ad design as there is editorial staff at most newspapers; regardless of size. And many of them get paid more than the reporters! At least 50% of the "Working" (non-supervisory, non-corporate) staff are display ad related and therefore newspapers are putting a lot of their overhead into display ads. Why? Seriously, if classifieds made you more money, why would you put all that time, effort and money into a net money loser?

Because you either read the report wrong or the report is wrong, that's why. This is an easy call. If all revenue was derived from classy and display, then a 40%-60% split might make some sense (though it is still questionable considering the expense put into display sales). Unfortuantely that is not the case. At least 15%, and more often 20+%, of revenue is derived from other sources. Now add 40% derived from classifieds and you have 40-45% (maximum) derived from display ads. Does it make sense to sink 50% of your wage expenses into an area that returns less than you put into it in expense-revenue percentages?

In the end, We do agree that classy is an important revenue source, but it is not where the big money is or more attention would be paid to it. Thus, a few percentage point loss in this area is not a business buster.

Finally, big market papers are not providing what the readers want, and can't. When it comes to newspapers these days, the market is local. The NYTimes would actually increase it's circulation by catering directly to New Yorkers. They need to run national, regional and statewide news, but they need more about New York on the front page and in the front section. (yes, I do pick up this paper occaisionally; I tend to read about 20 different issues of at least 8 different newspapers every week) These are the stories the NYTimes does best, why not do more of it and feature it more prominantly?

This is just one of a long list of things that have made the medium and small market papers very profitable, while the huge MSM flagships are sinking. And, yes, another is bias. Ignore it if you will, but,as I pointed out in my last post, it can even seriously damage a 100+ year old small-medium sized weekly in a growing community.

BTW - The "young readers don't read newspapers" mantra is over 100 years old and never did hold water. Readership has always been older. 20 years ago there was a big drive to increase readership among teens and 20-somethings or "we will never get them to read newspapers". Guess what? The drive wasn't a huge success, and 20 years later newspapers (especially in small markets) were still maintaining roughly the same circulation numbers. This in spite of 20 years of deaths of older readers. Why? It seems that those 20-somethings start picking up a newspaper more and more as they get older.

It also appears that this has always been the case. In 1985 only about 15% of those under 30 read a newspaper regularily, the numbers climb to 75% by them time you get to the over 50 crowd. In 2005 about 15% of those under 30 read a newspaper regularily. The 30-40 numbers have dipped slightly (a couple of percentage points) but the same thing applies; the vast majority of the over 50 crowd still reads at least one newspaper a week (90% of those read their local weekly and at least one issue of a regional or local daily). So don't go reading too much into the "young people don't read newspapers" mantra. It hasn't mattered in probably 200+ years and probably won't matter that much 100 years from now.







Sure, except...
You still can't do a half-decent job of reporting news without a professional staff. You need full time people who have ongoing relationships with institutions and people who make news, whose business it is to find out what's going on.

You can put out something that looks vaguely like this by relying on handouts and press releases and freelancers with cameras covering photoops, and that will work for some people and some purposes, but you're still left with a large population of grown-ups and professionals who need it to be right , fast, and deep.

>We do agree that classy is an important revenue source, but it is not where the big money is or more attention would be paid to it

But right now it's an open wound. Sure, there are workarounds, but in what about this statement seems false?

"The Newspaper Association of America reports that classified ad revenue amounted to $16.6 billion in 2004 -- down from $19.6 billion from 2000. Corrected for inflation the situation is far worse: Newspapers would have to have taken in $21.5 billion in 2005 to equal their 2000 classified revenues.

Real estate ads are crucially important to local papers. In 2004, real estate classifieds amounted to $4.2 billion, about a quarter of all classified ads and roughly 10 percent of total newspaper revenues. The oddity of real estate classified spending is that it's up while circulation is down, meaning the cost per impression has risen.

In 1985, says NAA, daily distribution reached 62.8 million copies. By 2004, daily circulation stood at 54.6 million -- a loss of better than 8 million subscribers. During the period from 1985 to 2004 the U.S. population increased by 34.2 million people. In effect, market penetration declined substantially.

Now comes research from Borrell Associates -- a national research and consulting firm that tracks local Internet advertising and crafts strategies for media and web sites -- which suggests that newspapers will face a huge loss of real estate ads.

In its study, Online Real Estate Advertising: 2006 Update, Borrell says that:

In 2001, $11.2 billion was spent on real estate advertising -- and only $396 million (3.5 percent) was spent online.
In 2005, $11.7 billion was spent on real estate ads -- but this time $1.7 billion (14.7 percent) was spent online.
For 2010, Borrell sees total real estate ad spending dipping to $9.6 billion -- but $3.1 billion (32.1 percent) will be spent on the Web. Corrected for inflation, that $9.6 billion actually represents far less spending than $9.6 billion would have bought this year.
(A free copy of the Borrell report's executive summary is available online by pressing here.)

"Toward the end of 2005," says Borrell, "the nearly rotten started looking truly rotten. As home sales slowed down and the inventory of unsold homes grew, the Internet became the most-used method of selling a home -- beating out even the old-faithful yard sign. The $11 billion spent on total real estate advertising stagnated, growing less than four percent over the past four years, while the available advertising inventory -- the number of existing homes for sale on the market -- rose 41 percent in the last 12 months. That metric alone is enough to stop a real estate advertising executive dead in his or her tracks."

At this point the argument will be made that newspapers are shifting to online publication and distribution, thus they will capture some or much of the newly-emerging online classified revenue. This is likely to be both true but not true enough.

Many metro newspapers are print monopolies. They're able to increase ad revenues even in the face of declining subscription levels because there's no practical alternative.

But what's true of local metro areas is not true online. On the Web no one has a monopoly. Successful sites are already in place plus new and potent competitors are launched each day, thus there is no way to force up prices. In fact, the usual Internet trend is to drive prices to zero."

What do you know that the Newspaper Association of American doesn't?

Agreed, to a point
If the only papers listed in your study are big national/intrstate regional publications like those in New York, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Washington D.C., L.A. etc. you may be right and I have no direct experience with these. They also amount to a total of just 10% or less of total newspaper cirrculation and are just a little more relavent than that (maybe). 50%+ of all newspaper circulation nationwide comes from newspapers in markets of under 200,000 (and circulations of under 100,000) and the rest (under 40%) are in markets of 200,000 to 1,000,000 (with circulations of between 100,000 and 400,000).

For example, the weekly cirrculation in Montana is roughly equal to that of the dailies. But, if you put the smallest 10 dailies and biggest 10 weeklies in a seperate category, the remaining smaller weeklies exceed the remaining bigger dailies.

This is the same in most states, Look it up. It is due to the fact that there are so many smaller papers and only a few larger ones; and most newspaper readers read their local paper, but not necessarily a bigger area paper.

Another interesting tidbit. The total newspaper circulation in Montana is over 450,000. On average, that equals just under 1.5 papers for every household (our total population is around 900,000 and total households are estimated at something over 320,000).

If you like a bigger state, try Washington State. They have one large market paper in Seattle and a second major market paper in Spokane. But, they have numerous small dailies and weeklies throughout the state.

As I've said before, I lived in California. The state has five major dominant newspapers, but literally hundreds of smaller, local dailies and weeklies. I believe there is something like 100 "newspapers" in L.A. alone. (many small niche publications, foreign language publications etc.)

picking (quite substantial) nits
This is one area and one report. There are many others. But most don't take into account the rising number of publications with on-line sites.

But the issue I will take with this is this: "Many metro newspapers are print monopolies. They're able to increase ad revenues even in the face of declining subscription levels because there's no practical alternative."

What the he ll do you call a print monopoly??? This makes me laugh like you wouldn't believe. I will bet the 10s and even 100s of smaller print publications in the area would disagree with a chuckle. There are many viable alternatives, pick the one(s) that suit you. Again and again, this thing you quote is very one sided and geared toward large newspapers. they are far from the do-all, say-all of the newsprint business.

One more thing
Most of the newspapers I've worked at run few classy ads from real estate agencies. They run multiple listing display ads as they can include company graphics and photos. They also run bi-annual or quarterly real-estate booklets or special sections.

I wonder if this decrease in classy ads has led to a corresponding increase in display ad sales in real estate? I know it has in many small market papers.

Sometimes a report doesn't tell the story.

BTW - I will agree that this is one area ripe for the internet! I would be surprised if newspaper real estate ads don't eventually disappear completely. A properly designed website can give virtual tours, multi-media displays and even begin the paperwork.

I have never denied the internet will change the landscape, in fact I believe I said that it will. This is one area where those changes will probably come much sooner and newspapers need to find a way to off-set the loss or recapture some of the market.

This is because of the shrinking range of all newspaper's market. As I said, even the big ones are going to have to think more locally. But real estate buyer are international, making the internet the ideal tool for real estate advertisment.

Good for you
Most people don't have the time or want to take the effort to look things like that up. This is why newspapers survived and flourished as radio and TV came on the air. The newspaper took only the time I wanted to put into it and I could check it out whenever I ad the time.

Newspapers have become very user friendly and continue to strive to improve in that area. Each story is not "modularized" as is each page and section. At a glance you can often find what you are looking for.

the internet has a long way to go to match the efficiency of newspapers for the public. Search engines are getting better, connections are getting faster, but you still have to have some Idea of what you are looking for. If you know that, you probably found out about it from a MSM outlet or someone else who did.

Right now, the internet is a great research tool. If you want to know more about a subject, it is easy to find the information and get as in-depth as you want. But TV, Radio and Newspapers are the lead in. You still hear about first from these sources.

It's just pointing ot that most cities don't have competing metropolitan dailies. Which most places don't. As a result department stores (typically) are pretty much locked in. yes, they do have alternatives. But the papes hve wiggle room. I basically don't disagree with what you say: there is a vigorous community press out there.

and regarding the big papers- they're the ones, along with the networks, who have the resources to do foreign coverage (almost dead for most chains), investigations, dc bureause and more. Sure, that's not the whole ball game. But it's an important part.

You admit that there are people who are getting all of their information from the web.
Is the web perfect? No, never will be.
Are newspapers perfect? No, haver have been, never will be.

Does the internet take customers away from newspapers. Obviously. And obviously, the number is growing.

The existence of blogs, whose only purpose is to serve as a gateway to other blogs is also growing. In addition, many blogs are starting to include links to other blogs as a service to their customers.

It doesn't take a lot of work to find information these days. And there's a good chance that the info you find is more up to date than anything that will be in a paper, and there's a better chance that the story was written by someone with knowledge and experience the region, or field. Something that rarelyhappens with newspapers.

please remove the caps lock, it makes your posts easier to read.

there have always been alternatives to the metro wide dailies
There has been TV and radio, as well as the local dailies and weeklies. Not to mention direct fliers.

Big stores have always kept up a mix of how they advertise, varying that mix depending on how much bang they get for their advertising buck.

You claimed that if there was only one metro wide daily, than that daily would be able to set it's ad rates however it pleased. This has never been true. When the eyeballs per dollar ratio for the big dailies exceeded the same ratio for other advertising venues, advertising dollars shifted to those other venues.

Your claim is equivalent to saying that Ford can charge whatever they want for a Pinto, because nobody else is making Pintos.

Yes, but
That is true. But that will likely always be true. The point is they need to increase their readership in that metro area.

You say - "and regarding the big papers- they're the ones, along with the networks, who have the resources to do foreign coverage (almost dead for most chains), investigations, dc bureause and more. Sure, that's not the whole ball game. But it's an important part."

Untrue. Leave much of that to the wire services and affiliates.

I'm saying they need to be the newspaper for their city or face losing everything. They need to use the wire services more, and those will be down-sized as well. Big Dailies are going to have to pick and choose what it is they really want to do themselves. I think they have to cover the metro area better, spend less on some area of their news coverage and focus more on what they feel is really important to their readers.

For the NY Times it could be more on statewide government, less on D.C. government; more on Europe and less on the middle east. Or the other way around. They need to be more broad on New York issues and news and more focused on what they will cover themselves outside the area. This is true of every metro newspaper. Let the wire services handle more; develop a better relationship with newspapers everywhere so they will work with you, accept that you can't be "The Nation's Newspaper" anymore.

Regarding resources, foreign coverage is why you have Reuters, UPI, etc. Not many newspapers (not even the NY Times) have a lot going in assets overseas; the same with the networks. They may have to eliminate that aspect entirely. So? A large percentage is already wire service stuff.
Look, you can send a reporter to, say, Iraq if you want some kind of an in-depth exposé. Doesn't cost that much to do. You just can't afford to station 100 reporters in central areas all over the world and fly them immediately to hot spots like they've been trying to do in the past. Can't afford it and it isn't necessary.

And it works pretty well. Again, I will refer to my experience; this time with micro-weeklies. These ultra-small newspapers sometimes have a total staff of one. They simply can't be too many places but still want coverage. How do they get it? By having sources in various government entities (schools, town council, county officials) that give them a heads up on what is happening. They also have a good relationship with other weeklies and even dailies in their area.

I worked at one of these (not quite that small, but about 1,500 circulation with a staff of four) It was a 24/7 job and we couldn't have done it without the outside resources. The up-side was the fact that my stories ran in numerous area papers which gave me exposure to "move up" or, at least, over when I decided it was time. It also helped to get other"voices" (writing styles and viewpoints on issues) in the paper. This helped with the balance that is often sorely lacking in big metros. (because so much is done by their staff who knows what their editors want) BTW, you do not edit another paper's stories, except for spelling and obvious grammar, if you want to maintain that good relationship.

O.K., here goes
I wasn't goint to answer this as it is long and convoluted. But, after reading it for the 10th time I decided to try.

1. Wrong as always. I read numerous papers, watch various news spots, check out internet news and blogs (ugh) and some cable news on CNN and Fox. After 20 years of working the business, I'm a news junkie; what can I say. My "opinion" is based on direct experience in the business. The same direct observation any good reporter uses for a good hard news story. You may not like it, but it is an obvious fact; the MSM is tiltied left.

Almost everyone I've ever talked to sees bias in the media; except left wingers. (and even the looney left sees bias, conservative bias; very strange) So this obviously is not the "opinion" of the minority, nor does it apply only to big newspapers and MSM outlets. Every paper I worked for was accused of bias (usually liberal bias) to some extent; and by a large segment of the readership.

And it does affect circulation. When the truly "conservative" paper I worked for turned that direction, circulation began dropping; but only by about a percentage point or so a year. Manageable bleeding. When the very moderate weekly I worked for turned liberal, they lost 25%+ in less than two years.

Now here's the kicker; All of them do a pretty decent job 80% of the time. Their coverage of initial incidents (like the attack or the WTC or a major train wreck) is stellar in most instances. But then come the features, analysis and opinion; almost all skewed to the left. Then come the in-depth issue stories, again largely skewed left. Political stories; yep, skewed left again.

2. Most of Lee's papers are referred to as "Medium Market" with a circulation of 50,000 to 400,000. No, they do not own any mega-market papers (like the NY Times), but they run many of the same wire service stuff and have to deal with many of the same issues in competition, readership and advertising. What Lee does well is that they do not put their papers under a unified editorial board or system. Each paper is run as an individual entity; they keep it local.

The new owners did not fire "long time" editors. The people they fired at that level had been with the papers for 6-months to 3 years. These papers were used to going through staffing changes so that was not the problem. It was who they hired and the change in the newspaper's direction; they tacked hard left.

The editor of the paper in question, when I worked there, was a admitted dyed-in-the-wool Democrat liberal. But he is a common sense liberal and a real newspaper man who believed in "just the facts" in hard news and liked getting differing opinions in the paper. (He was the one who told me "you can't change who you are, and that will come out in your feature story and analysis story writing, but it should never be a part of your hard news reporting; still it is hard for it not to and you have to be on guard to try and avoid this as much as possible." Guess what? They don't teach that in J-School.) He and I enjoyed arguing politics (I was the only non-liberal in the room) and issues; we are still friends though we moved to different parts of the country (he is in the mid-west now); and we still argue politics on the phone and e-mails.

The new editor doesn't have the same kind of policies. There is a notable difference in the way stories are reported and the slant in the kinds of stories run.

3.Yes and no. I have never understood this public perception that classy is so very profitable. It may have been 20 or 30 years ago, but display advertising has been the revenue generator over the past 20 years (at least). Yes, classy is important (accounting for at least 30% of revenue (it seems) at large dailies. But it is a smaller percentage at smaller papers (in general).

So, a 10 or 20% decline in one area of classified advertisng only corresponds to a 2-4% (at best) reduction in overall classy advertising. While you never want to see a decrease in any revenue stream, it's not that big a deal. Also, as I pointed out to eric, most weeklies I've worked for, and with, are now doing display, multi-listing ads for real estate agencies. This allows for company logos and photos of the houses. Also, quarterly or bi-annual real-estate booklets or special sections are becoming a big thing. While the fact is undeniable that there is less real estate classifieds, I have to wonder if real estate advertising in newspapers is actually up or down. I know it was up, in total dollars, at the papers I worked for.

4. This shows your ignorance - "Secondarily, time moves on. Papers don't have the same readership they had in 1962 because most of those old people are now dead. Today's young adults don't read the news. Ever. And when they turn on the TV they don't go to straight news programs, they go to Jon Stewart. Or to the sports channels."

First off newspaper readership, as a whole, is pretty steady; the major declines are at big papers and smaller papers in areas where population is declining. Secondly, there are new publications popping up all the time. They all have readers.

When the "Newspapers in Schools" program was being pushed hard by the NNA (in the late 80s and early 90s) the argument was that we don't have many readers in their teens and 20s; we have to get them now to keep them later. I went back and looked at some old issues and found this perception was at least 70 years old (and I suspect much older). In 1980 newspapers had only a 15% penetration into the 30 and under demographic. By the time people reached 50+ the number was something like 80%. Guess what? In 2003 newspapers had about a 15% penetration in the under 30 crowd and something like 80% in the 50+.
Huh, imagine that; even with all those older people who died in that 20 years. As we get older we tend to read more. The area where much of the loss has come is the 30-50 age group. They are reading fewer newspapers, but the numbers are only off a couple of percentage points and depend on region of the country. also, the same number read their local newspaper, but fewer read any other newspaper (big metro or regional daily). So it isn't so much that less are reading, but they are reading fewer publications.

5. then the internet blogs would cease to exist too. This is all senseless.

6. Untrue. Katie is a moderate lefty and to much of an "air headed piece of fluff". It is swapping one bad idea for another. Also, she doesn't decide what will be covered or how it is written.

She might stabalize things at CBS, in spite of this, as they have gotten such a bad rap over the past few years. Also, the fact that the Republican leadership is willing to talk to her is a plus for CBS.

Roy, if I were looking for an immediate impact, I would look for a well known moderate like Bill O'Rielly or a true righty like Sean Hannity (sp? I don't like the guy much so I don't watch him). Put someone like that in as your front man and I will bet ratings will climb; if for no other reason than the fact that person actually went to CBS.

Yes, but...
For most papers, this is good advice regarding national and international coverage:

>Leave much of that to the wire services and affiliates.

But some - the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the WSJ - do aim to be full-service news operations, and play a critical role in gathering national and intenational news. Some other places - Miami, for example - reach south.

>You just can't afford to station 100 reporters in central areas all over the world and fly them immediately to hot spots like they've been trying to do in the past. Can't afford it and it isn't necessary.

It is necessary, unless you want the entire flow of news from most of the world to come from one or two sources. And, seriously, it's not as though most newspapers aren't profitable. The problem is usually they aren't making enough for non-journalistically oriented out-of-town corporate owners.

Objectivity and opinion
As you are a news professional, I find it striking that you do not acknowledge any demarcation between the news pages and the editorial pages in your blanket condemnation of the American press. Isn't it the case rather that virtually all newspapers strive for accuracy in their news reporting, while their editorial opinions are all over the map?

The WSJ, for instance, has absolutely first rate, objective news reporting. Yet its editorial voice is as far to the right as Steve Forbes. Tell me you don't think those statements are so. The NYT also has accurate reporting, free from spin, yet its own opinion columns are equally far to the left. Is it not possible to say that both papers can be read for their news content, while one reserves the right to form his own opinions without editorial help?

Your argument further continues to fall apart when you read which candidates the editors endorse in upcoming elections. In my state, both the Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News & Observer are owned by the now-merged Knight Ridder McClatchy empire. Yet in any given election the pro-business Charlotte paper will endorse the Republican candidates while the more moderate Raeigh paper will endorse the D's. How can this be, if all are equally leftist?

And how can I possibly consider the Raleigh N&O centrist? Easy. They run op-eds ranging all the way from Charles Krauthammer to Mooly Ivins. And the letters they publish, all quite outspojen and highly opinionated, fall about equally between those calling the paper too far to the right and those calling it too far to the left.

To me, you should 'fess up to one thing. Your perceptions are hopelessly partisan, and thus no more or less valid than those of anyone else who is hopelessly partisan. There exists a wide range of opinion as to whether mainstream news sources, whether broadcast, printed or wired in on cable, are more to the right, left or center.

My own opinion is that they are stuck in the tepid center. They are, after all, every one other than the tiny free presses, owned by large corporations like GE and Disney. So they are barred from presenting anything too controversial no matter what extreme of the spectrum it comes from. Thus the fare we really have to imbibe daily is the view from the White House lawn. You are not represented, I'm not represented.

Can it be that no spark of recognition is stirring within you that this is the actual state of affairs in the news biz?

Oh, wait. I see that in your world, Bill O'Reilly is not a preening tyrant who shouts down his guests of straw, but instead "a moderate". I thought he was a pure showboat, playing to an audience that loves to watch farce. How could I have gotten such an impression?

You do make some valid observations in your post, which for reasons of space I will respond to separately. But that's it for the moment.

My considered response
As advertised, I'm back.

Why should you be surprised that in one instance, a paper changes editors and with that their editorial viewpoint, and loses readership, while in another instance a paper changes editors, and also their editorial viewpoint, and in this second instance, they also LOSE READERSHIP?

Isn't it apparent that whether they skewed right or they skewed left, the fact that they skewed at all means that people who once agreed with them no longer did so? And that many of these unhappy people wrote snippy letters to the paper explaining exactly why they were cancelling their subscriptions?

The fact that everyone in your circle of friends nods their heads when you expound on the unacceptable liberality of the media says more (IMO) about your circle of friends than it does about the breadth of opinion in America.

You say that reporters inherently slant their stories, no matter how objective they try to be, and that editors lean on them to give their stories the right slant. Yet I never see that. Factual material is factual material. When most all the news coming out of Iraq is bad, for example, you can't just write feel good stories. Do you ever see stories saying "well, two people died in combat yesterday-- but on the other hand 139,998 people didn't die"? Of course not. That's not a slant, that's just the facts.

One source of perceived bias may be that there is pressure by corporate owners, especially new ones following an acquisition, to increase profitability by firing news staff and trying to fill the paper up with ads. This is because share price, not news, is the uppermost of their concerns. And the result of this process is that very many fewer stories can be run. Deciding which stories can be run and which ones we just don't have room for can become significant in people's minds. And this choice is a perennial complaint of readers-- their favorite concern was either left out or showed up between the undie ads on A13, while Anna Nicole's baby made the front page.

I felt the same way during the Lebanese invasion. My paper failed to run the story, which I thought important, that the US was supplying the Israelis with fresh munitions at the same time we were calling for Hezbollah to disarm. Call me a leftie, but is this information we should be informed of, or is it just something that should be suppressed out of patriotism?

Finally (really, this is my last comment), I would like you to take the time to write me a little essay (50 words is fine, if you're short of time) on why Katie Couric is a lefty. I can go first with mine:

Katie Couric is a vacuous professional who would no sooner let an opinion of her own show through than she would an errant bra strap. She enjoys access to the important names of our time because she never challenges or questions them. She is very popular because she looks so cute throwing them softballs and asking them about their wives. She is the newsperson of choice for Harry and Betty Homemaker, because she never makes them think. They can only nod their heads in agreement like bobbin' head dolls.

Your turn.

Agreed on some things
That is my point. You can very definately be too liberal and/or too conservative. People, as a whole, do not agree with this in anews publication. But it wasn't a change of personnel in the conservative leaning paper, it was an editor/owner that got really fed up with the liberal wackos and their incesant lettr writing. also, there were few "snippy letters to the editor" in either case.

Ah, no. Many of the people I talked to in my days in the business admitted they didn't agree with me, but liked my reporting (because it was just the facts) or the way I presented my opinion in op-eds. People who get peeved off enough to stop their subscription usually do so with no warning. The snippy letters come from those who aren't usually that angry. I have to wonder, are you one of those who only reads a paper that generally agrees with your point of view? Believe ot or not, it is my experience that most readers don't. They have a pretty large array of reasons to pick up a newspaper, but agreeing with their point of view isn't a top priority. However, when they feel a paper affronts their core values, they will say bye-bye.

This is funny - "The fact that everyone in your circle of friends nods their heads when you expound on the unacceptable liberality of the media says more (IMO) about your circle of friends than it does about the breadth of opinion in America."

Considering my "Circle of friends" includes more media liberal types than anything else, I guess you are right. LOL!! BTW - Within the circle it is generally acknowledged that liberals run the media and the media as a whole (especially the big guys) are liberally slanted. Some very good, long time journalists acknowledge this. In fact, I've never heard a journalist ever deny it.

Go ahead, imagine me with this small group of hardcore Republican Conservatives bemoaning the liberal media. It's a great joke, but the joke is on you!!

More joking I assume - "You say that reporters inherently slant their stories, no matter how objective they try to be, and that editors lean on them to give their stories the right slant. Yet I never see that. Factual material is factual material. When most all the news coming out of Iraq is bad, for example, you can't just write feel good stories. Do you ever see stories saying "well, two people died in combat yesterday-- but on the other hand 139,998 people didn't die"? Of course not. That's not a slant, that's just the facts."

First, I never said that exactly. Yes, reporters will inherently slant the story if they try to get the opinion of experts and witnesses. This is supposed to be the place for the Feature; not hard news. A reporter will naturally gravitate to the guy who gives them the quote they want to hear. It is natural. They will also define things in a way that makes it seem the opposing opinion is less important or believable (if they bother to get one). No one has a problem with the reporter who says "…two were killed today by sniper fire." The do argue if that is followed by "As the brave iraqi insurgents continue to chip away at the American occupiers." That is inserting his opinion into a news story; and, though true, it is the word "occupiers" and not "brave" that is the most objectionable. Combined, the statement may be "truthful" be it is not reporting it is opining.

I will agree with you on the corporate end and your preception of some of the problems that causes is accurate to some extent. I don't like corporate newspapers, I like a truly independent press in every way. So my personal bias come into to play here.

As for your example of the Isreal-Hezbollah conflict; I think you wanted some big exposé; even my little regional daily stated in one story that the U.S. had agreed to send an already ordered arms shipment to Israel. This just isn't as big a deal as you wanted it to be; the U.S. is the major supplier of weapons to Israel. But it is a good example of the difference between what you would have done and what most of the media did do. I guess they were just too conservativly biased and Patroitic for your taste. LOL

I don't have to since your comments on Katie are pretty close to the mark and I agree. I would just add that she has let slip enough tidbits over the years to make me believe she leans to the left some. I wouldn't say she is a rabid left wingnut by any means. But she is at least a left leaning moderate. Your comments also point out why CBS my very well improve their ratings. Hard core news junkies like me would perfer CNN, Larry King and Bill Mahr.

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