Blogs are fine, but newspapers are better

This is from Mark Potts' blog, Recovering Journalist. He's been tracking the decline of American daily newspapers. He's compiled a database of all the job cuts and setbacks in the industry for the past couple of years. While this looks scary -- really, really scary -- we should keep in mind that this is part of a shedding of old ways and embracing of new (with notable expectations and obvious different rates of speed). That shedding, of course, is painful -- really, really painful -- but, hey, there's no putting the 21st century toothpaste back into 20th century tube.

What I think we should be worried about is the quality of discussion about arts and culture. If newspaper don't it, who will? Blogs are fine, but they are only one way of covering the arts. Nothing can replace the dedicated, professional, and relatively well-resourced engagement of the arts by a daily newspaper (even The Post and Courier's theater reviews, however small and lacking of substance they may be at times, are still valuable in that they are present and not absent from the newspaper's pages)

* More than 6,300 employees at the 100 largest newspapers have lost jobs through buyouts or layoffs in the past year.
* More than half of those cutbacks have come since the beginning of June.
* Nearly two-thirds of the top 100 papers have cut staff in the past year, including all but four of the top 34 (the two New York City tabloids, the Indianapolis Star and the Cleveland Plain Dealer are the exceptions-and Plain Dealer management has threatened imminent cuts).
* Even papers that haven't made recent cuts have sliced staff in the past couple of years-in all, three-quarters of the Top 100 have eliminated jobs in the past two years or so.
* Twenty-eight of the Top 100 have cut more than 100 jobs in the past year. Seven have cut more than 200 jobs-and those numbers go up significantly if you go back more than a year.
* The largest cuts have come at the biggest papers, not surprisingly, and at chains. (The worst: 350 jobs lost at the Los Angeles Times since February.) Perhaps the safest place to work is at an independently owned paper in a mid-sized market. So far.
* Virtually all cuts are on the print side -- few papers, if any, have cut online staffing, fortunately.
* Until recently, voluntary buyouts were the usual method of cutting employment-but lately, many cuts have been through outright layoffs.
* Job cuts aren't the only thing going on-papers also are freezing hiring and shrinking through reduction of editions and sections, striking partnerships with other papers, closing bureaus and outsourcing some production (even copy-editing!) overseas.
* More than a handful of papers-and their owners-clearly are in fairly dire financial peril, losing money or having trouble making debt payments. And several papers have been put up for sale.
August 18, 2008 6:47 PM | | Comments (2)

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You are right about not being able to put the 21st Century toothpaste back in the 20th Century tube. But the thing to do is not pit blogs vs. print. It's to ask how we use the new medium of the Internet and all of its capabilities to expand the kind of arts journalism that we do. Yes, the changing model of print journalism is a big change. It's also a big opportunity.

I have only one disagreement with what you have written, specifically..."What I think we should be worried about is the quality of discussion about arts and culture. If newspaper don't it, who will? Blogs are fine, but they are only one way of covering the arts. Nothing can replace the dedicated, professional, and relatively well-resourced engagement of the arts by a daily newspaper..."

Why do you feel that blog writers are not or could not be "dedicated, professional, well-resourced"? Certainly a fledgling news source could be forgiven for a little roughness (think early broadsides at same period of development). According to the Pew Research study just released, newspapers are running well behind the crass television networks as a source of information and is "only one way of covering the arts".
Or is your blog but toungue in virtual cheek?

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