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Two reasons why the newspaper industry is in decline

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I know the reasons for the newspaper industry's troubles have been discussed over the past year by any number of so called experts. Atrios points to the poor business model they used along with Athenae's rant about unchecked corporate corruption. As a former member of the industry itself for over 15 years I have my own explanation. Yes, I agree whole heartedly with both Atrios and Athena but only as it pertains to piling on to the real reason . And that real reason is simple enough: they stopped being journalist and began morphing into dictation machines. No matter who was sourced and/or quoted they were done so without question. It didn't matter what happened in the past or what was said. It only mattered for that moment. This journalistic "whiteout" whereas professional ethics and standards were thrown out the window was done so at the expense of accountability ensuring they were percieved to be "fair and balanced." No matter how ludicrous one side sounded regarding any issue it was treated with equal footing when contrasted with an opposing view. Eventually this practice of acting like cheerleaders for the local, state and the federal government without question comes at a huge expense: your credibility. Now journalist are seen to be no better than used car salespeople for their trouble. What a surprise.

Even now they don't get it. The MSM is still clueless why they are perceived as such. But make no bones about it. It is the reason they are dying. Why listen or read it if it isn't credible? (Like printing rants about weapons of mass destruction without calling them on it for proof or why it is a variable in the equation historically). Add to that the lousy business model as Atrios points out and you have an industry in deep trouble.

I think newspapers are a community necessity. Local government without a watchdog leads to corruption and bad policy. Once that voice and watchful eye is gone the bad times aren't just here to stay, they'll get worse.

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