The Times, they are a-changin‘.
The Los Angeles Times‘ parent company, Tribune Company, announced Friday that it was borrowing $250 million in credit due to the current financial crisis. The New York Times‘ revenue is down 12 percent.
What does this have to do with you, the bright young college student who no doubt has more pressing concerns than the future of the newspaper industry?
These are just two more indicators that news itself is changing, fundamentally and rapidly. Want some more?
Continuing the slow evisceration of a once proud newspaper, the LA Times also announced Friday that effective 2010, it will no longer carry Associated Press stories.
The New York Sun, the conservative alternative to The New York Times, went out of business at the end of September, unable to find any investors willing to keep the ailing franchise afloat. Before the end, The Sun had been losing a purported $1 million per month.
The Sacramento Bee has been feeling the sting for some time now, reporting since mid-September about its own financial woes; 87 employees, including 23 in the newsroom, have been bought out by the publisher in order to cut costs.
The Davis Enterprise recently cut the position of sports editor from their staff in order to reduce costs.
When asked on Friday about the future of the newspaper industry, Rupert Murdoch replied that the industry cannot be saved; the only newspapers that would survive in some capacity were those that found a way to be digitally profitable. Murdoch’s opinion is significant; the owner of NewsCorp, which owns a startling amount of media worldwide, got his start in the Australian newspaper business.
These problems, while certainly affected by the weak economy both in the U.S. and abroad, are endemic of a fundamental shift in the way news is being reported. While traditionally respected newspapers are struggling to turn a profit, entities such as Fox News Channel are thriving.
“Last week, Fox News Channel was the most watched cable channel in America,” Murdoch said Friday at the NewsCorp shareholders meeting.
Whether Fox is overly biased or partisan in any way is a matter open to debate (Fox publicly maintains that it is committed to fair and balanced journalism); what cannot be denied is the format in which it presents its information. Most of the programs revolve around pundits and talking heads constantly giving their opinion on this and that.
Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olbermann and Anderson Cooper are all household names, but each represents a departure from the news program anchors that Americans used to get their news from, such as Edward Murrow and Walter Cronkite; reporting has gradually morphed into punditry.
“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,“ a comedy program, is considered by many to be the most reliable and honest source of news available to viewers. That a program on Comedy Central is judged to be as the most accurate news program speaks volumes about the quality of network programming and cable news.
In a recent interview with Rachel Cooke of The Observer, internationally renowned American journalist Seymour Hersh noted a growing trend he has noticed in his contemporaries.
“My colleagues! I watch ‘em on TV and every sentence begins with the words: I think. They could write a book called ‘I think,‘” he said.
This shift in journalism, from well-reasoned, well-reported stories toward opinion oriented programming (e.g. Crossfire on CNN or blogs) could be good or bad, depending on your perspective and what you want out of your news.
If, however, you see this as a negative trend, you don’t have to be complicit in its propagation. Rather than watch a series of loud bobble-head dolls on cable news channels, tune in to your public radio station or pick up a copy of The New Yorker.
The way you get your daily news is changing, but you have it within your power to determine how; the quality of reporting and the medium in which you consume it will determine the future of journalism, and, consequently, how you and your children will learn what’s going on in the world.
RICHARD PROCTER still really, really needs a second ticket to Yo-Yo Ma’s concert at the Mondavi Center. E-mail him with offers or demands at firstname.lastname@example.org.