The results are in ...

... and they look dreadful for all the newspapers that are desperately cutting their staffs (and book sections and arts sections) to keep up their profit margins for Wall Street and the stockholders. It turns out it doesn't work. In fact, it's a horrid idea -- just as serious journalists and serious readers have been saying. It hurts quality coverage. It loses readers. It loses advertising. And the internet isn't exactly the future salvation that many hold out, either.

Craig Flournoy and Tracey Everbach have been working for months for The Columbia Journalism Review on a feature analysis of the consequences of the layoffs and cutbacks at The Dallas Morning News the past two years. The story just went up online and it makes for grim reading. The story looks at not just the fallout for the newspaper -- although it paints a thoroughly bleak picture of that -- but also the results for individual reporters, photographers, editors. Disclosure: book/daddy took part in the survey and is briefly quoted.

The departing journalists have generally found new jobs and are happy. (Ahem. Yes, well, book/daddy is always the exception.) That's pretty much the only good news. Everything else is bad. What people like the National Book Critics Circle have been arguing for months -- that such cutbacks will hurt coverage, that they will result in the loss of readers, that this is not a way forward but just a way to even more cutbacks -- is vindicated by the story. A paper can't lose high-quality journalists and expect readers won't notice the change in coverage. And tweaking the website doesn't make up the difference. Mr. Flournoy and Ms. Everbach do a fine job of taking apart the spin put out by the News by setting it against surveys, statistics, expert opinions. It is a devastating analysis. Put simply, this was not an inevitable decline; it was the result of bungling management.

One hopes every newspaper management reads it. And one fully expects it won't make much difference, given the dunderheaded thinking that got newspapers into this mess in the first place.

July 4, 2007 9:13 PM | | Comments (3)



So the Trib still, now, has a good review section? I was probably reading it before you were writing book reviews in the DMN (we could time it by looking at Lincoln biographies). I didn't care to speculate, having little experience, that what I found in the DMN would be true of newspapers generally.

My point wasn't actually about the Dallas Morning News per se, but as my opening lines indicate, about all newspapers following such economically foolish and professionally suicidal thinking. And that includes the Chicago Tribune. For all of your superiority to the News' book reviews (a few years back, when I was writing some of them), in a few years, you probably won't find much difference between the Tribune's book section and anyone else's, so there will be little reason to get the out-of-town paper. Except for the LA and NYTimes, and a tiny number of others, they're all heading toward shorter reviews, fewer reviews and, especially, more wire reviews. That's much of the reason for the alarm raised by the National Book Critics Circle: Homogenization and centralization of book coverage is becoming the norm.

The DMN had a good obituary on a guy who served with the 36th division, had him in uniform with his old not-tough guy glasses, this last week. It'll publish a letter from a Muslim saying 'nobody like him has been arrested for terrorism in the U.S.' the same day it reports the sad story of someone, among others, killed in a Utah mall going to get a ring for his/her spouse of a year. They don't tell you the shooter was yelling 'Allah Akhbar' and would be buried in the Middle East. You learn that from the blog Instapundit. As for culture, years ago, while in Dallas, I subscribed to the Chicago Tribune and enjoyed their book reviews, read one discussed on Lincoln. You want Fry's (ad) with that?


Best of the Vault


Pat Barker, Frankenstein, Cass Sunstein on the internet, Samuel Johnson, Thrillers, Denis Johnson, Alan Furst, Caryl Phillips, Richard Flanagan, George Saunders, Michael Harvey, Larry McMurtry, Harry Potter and more ...


Big D between the sheets -- Dallas in fiction


Reviewing the state of reviewing


9/11 as a novel: Why?


How can critics say the things they do? And why does anyone pay attention? It's the issue of authority.

The disappearing book pages:  

Papers are cutting book coverage for little reason

Thrillers and Lists:  

Noir favorites, who makes the cut and why



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by book/daddy published on July 4, 2007 9:13 PM.

Lighten up, Eddie was the previous entry in this blog.

"It's ALL OVER, people!" is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.