Thursday, February 25, 2010

The slow death of the news

In their book, The Death and Life of Journalism in America, Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols point out the alarming facts about the crisis of American newspapers:

In a nutshell, media corporations, after running journalism into the ground, have determined that news gathering and reporting are not profit-making propositions. So they're jumping ship. The country's great regional dailies--the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer--are in bankruptcy. Denver's Rocky Mountain News recently closed down, ending daily newspaper competition in that city. The owners of the San Francisco Chronicle, reportedly losing $1 million a week, are threatening to shutter the paper, leaving a major city without a major daily newspaper. Big dailies in Seattle (the Times), Chicago (the Sun-Times) and Newark (the Star-Ledger) are reportedly near the point of folding, and smaller dailies like the Baltimore Examiner have already closed. The 101-year-old Christian Science Monitor, in recent years an essential source of international news and analysis, is folding its daily print edition. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is scuttling its print edition and downsizing from a news staff of 165 to about twenty for its online-only incarnation. Whole newspaper chains--such as Lee Enterprises, the owner of large and medium-size publications that for decades have defined debates in Montana, Iowa and Wisconsin--are struggling as the value of stock shares falls below the price of a single daily paper. And the New York Times needed an emergency injection of hundreds of millions of dollars by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim in order to stay afloat.

This article (which includes a video) states that at least 10,000 of the 60,000 journalists in America in 2001 have lost their jobs and there is no evidence that any have re-employment on the Internet in 'digital newspapers'. Where is it all heading? The Propaganda State, they say.

It effectively repeats the gloomy analysis contained in the book Flat Earth News about the state of UK news media (see our post from 21 October last).

In New Zealand most newspapers and current affairs magazines are now owned by the two Australian media giants Fairfax and ACP, whose policies of severe cost-cutting have seen editorial standards plummet and coverage of current events and issues (to say nothing of arts and culture) curtailed.

Thus the book's analysis (and the authors' prescription for salvation) applies to a large extent here too.

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