Thursday, July 23, 2009

Newspaper executors

The death of newspapers, like the death of Michael Jackson, is being blamed on the wrong party.

Jackson's last doctor is now under the justice system's spotlight -- and the entertainment media's -- but it's fairly clear from some of the reporting that Jackson, even as he was preparing for his "comeback," was still addicted to prescription drugs and finally asked for more once too often, and died as a result, killing himself accidentally.

Newspapers, through their publishers, essentially have done the same, but journalism is under the spotlight, and reporters and editors of the content of newspapers are getting the popular blame.

Journalists haven't kept up. They haven't moved to the Internet fast enough. They can't keep up with the swiftness of the news cycle, the sweep of readers and viewers from one medium to the next, etc., etc., etc.

The blame, in fact, lies with publishers and the advertising side of newspaper failures. Ad sales people were the ones who couldn't keep up, couldn't sell the newspaper's content to readers even as the newspaper's content providers bravely attempted to adjust to readers' demands.

And publishers, who are the executors of newspapers' estates even as the news organs still live, failed to change their business models fast enough to adjust to the changing marketplace.

Ad sales people at newspapers couldn't make the sale. Couldn't close the deal.

And their bosses, the publishers of newspapers, couldn't teach them how to make the sale because the publishers had grown too fat and lazy on unthreatened high profits for at least a hundred years to remember what it meant to hustle.

You won't hear much of that from the newspaper game. The publishers, after all, remain the executors of the newspaper industry estate. They remain the bosses, and like Michael Jackson's latest doctor, they are still in business, at least for the time being.

Journalism, however, seems certainly to be just as dead as Michael.

Dylan Thomas wrote: "Don't go gentle into that good night!"

I expect you'll see journalists accepting his advice even as their profession withers to a slim shadow of its old self. As readers, you should give them succor whenever and however you are able.

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