Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A newspaper going under is not a good thing

The Rocky Mountain News, published in Denver, Colorado for the last 150 years, died last Friday. That is not a good thing by any definition.

"Old Media" is in big trouble, with newspapers on death watch, TV stations being closed and traditional journalists watching as their livelihood disintegrates around them.

And if you don't think this is going to have an effect on you because you "get your news from the Internet" - think again. Open up Google News and you'll see that most of the stories are aggregated from traditional media outlets. We depend on them to watch, filter and deliver the news to us. Sure, we've come up with a lot of fancy ways to look at it, but it's still coming from the same sources.

This morning in the Vancouver Sun, I read "The old media are the new media - just look at the Sun,"by Stephen Hume, a newsroom veteran, who told a story about buying milk over the years to illustrate his point:

Think milk. In my day, I've bought milk in bottles delivered to my doorstep every morning, at the supermarket in plastic bags that fit into reusable jugs, at my local gas station in waxed cardboard cartons, at the all-night convenience store in plastic blimps, in cans and in tetra packs. The medium of delivery may change but milk is milk and I don't expect to get it free because the package changes. The price I pay for milk enables farmer and cow to produce it.

Journalism is the content cow. News organizations are the farmer. Both represent input costs recouped by charging for the output.

It's a good point. We pay a whack of money to get on the Internet, we pay for cable TV and we pay to go to the movies. Why do we figure that we shouldn't have to pay for information that comes from our computer?

It may be that people won't pay for it, but then the price should be included in the charges that we pay to Shaw and Rogers and Bell for our Internet access. We need to support writers and editors who deliver the news.

For more on the death of the Rocky Mountain News, read this Salon article, written by one of the staffers who watched it unfold. A sad tale, beautifully told.


Anonymous said...


I was just surfing the net under, (paperless papers,) and found what I was looking for and your blog as well. I saw a story on this on CNN about a week ago, http://blog.pressdisplay.com/2008/05/13/index-tribune-publisher-invites-readers-to-join-the-biggest-green-revolution-in-the-history-of-newspapers-%E2%80%93-going-paperless/ and I think it is a great idea. The man sitting at his kitchen table reading the old printable newspaper is a thing of the past. This idea seems logical to me, because not only could one read the entire newspaper by a tap of the finger, but it also helps our planet for many various and rational reasons.

Perhaps the Rocky Mountain News could go back; never to where it was before; but better. People could work from their homes, (no overhead needless spending on rent, extra utilities, - paper), and they could pay their writers a wonderful salary because of all the money they would be saving.

Just a thought from a gal in Visalia, Ca!


Dave said...

Those are good thoughts... I don't disagree with you. I think that publishing the news through some new form of mesh or web will happen. It's probably what should have been happening for years and if it had, the old media might have been leading the way to this new world. But they didn't, and now they're going to pay the price. I will be interested to see what the journalists and editors who are being put on the streets come up with. I suspect there is a lot of energy there that can be tapped to come up with a new model for professional journalism. It should be interesting. I still wish that this change didn't mean so much dislocation for my journalist friends however -- no one likes to see people thrown out of work, no matter how justified the move might be from a business sense.