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BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep

Amos 07 Feb 09 - 02:43 PM
Ebbie 07 Feb 09 - 03:03 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 07 Feb 09 - 03:30 PM
gnu 07 Feb 09 - 05:03 PM
katlaughing 07 Feb 09 - 06:15 PM
WyoWoman 07 Feb 09 - 07:35 PM
kendall 07 Feb 09 - 08:19 PM
Richard Bridge 07 Feb 09 - 08:26 PM
Amos 10 Feb 09 - 11:08 AM
maire-aine 10 Feb 09 - 03:51 PM
Riginslinger 11 Feb 09 - 07:46 AM
Riginslinger 11 Feb 09 - 05:02 PM
Bill D 11 Feb 09 - 05:50 PM
Bill D 11 Feb 09 - 05:54 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 11 Feb 09 - 06:19 PM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Feb 09 - 07:47 PM
Riginslinger 11 Feb 09 - 09:07 PM
GUEST,Jts 12 Feb 09 - 02:34 PM

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Subject: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: Amos
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 02:43 PM

"Thomas Jefferson did not wish to become a wolf.

Odd as that may sound today considering all the good he did his country, Jefferson worried about the possibility, so much so that, while on a trip to Europe in 1787, one of his letters home became a kind of dissertation about the people he'd seen transformed into "wolves and sheep" along the way.

Cloaked in the garb of government, Jefferson wrote, the leaders of Europe had managed to divide their nations into two distinct classes -- "wolves and sheep" -- with the ruling class preying upon everyone else.

It was, Jefferson figured, the result of the public's inattention, an inevitability wherever government was permitted to exist absent a free press.
"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

Those words appeared in Jefferson's letter to Edward Carrington, a Virginia statesman who was serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress. In it, Jefferson went on to say that, without newspapers, he feared the American public would stop paying attention to their government. Once that happened it was only a matter of time before Jefferson, the Congress, and the whole of the American government turned into a pack of wolves preying upon sheep.
Wolves and sheep. You don't have to be a Jeffersonian scholar to comprehend what it means.

Yet, here we find ourselves more than 222 years later in the midst of a newspaper crisis that TIME magazine says has reached "meltdown proportions," meaning our transformation into wolves and sheep may soon be a foregone conclusion, and still the majority of the American public appears oblivious.

Many newspapers have closed. Buyouts and layoffs have decimated once great institutions of American journalism. And despite all that, some of the craziest last-ditch efforts you ever could have imagined are being implemented in the effort to stave off death.

- The Los Angeles Times has killed its local news section.

- The Gannett newspaper chain has put its newspaper employees on mandatory five-day furloughs.

- The Detroit New and The Detroit Free Press have ceased daily home delivery.

These aren't sane measures. Indeed, had anyone suggested such things two years ago they'd have been branded a lunatic. But as we approach panic mode, even remotely plausible ideas seem worth a shot.

TIME magazine's cover story this week, a very thought-provoking piece written by Walter Isaacson (a former TIME managing editor, and president and CEO of the Aspen Institute), suggests the solution may be to charge readers for access:
"Under a micropayment system, a newspaper might decide to charge a nickel for an article or a dime for that day's full edition or $2 for a month's worth of Web access. Some surfers would balk, but I suspect most would merrily click through if it were cheap and easy enough."

Simple enough, except that, as Isaacson points out, it's not new. Writers have been charging readers for news since paper put cave walls out of business, but, despite that, prior attempts to make readers pay in the wired world of the World Wide Web haven't gone over very well.
Which brings us right back to where we've been for years while, in the meantime, another newspaper (Denver's Rocky Mountain News) rages against the dying of the light.

No more.

It's time to do something drastic.

It's time to do more than join another Facebook pledge group, or promote a campaign like National Buy A Newspaper Day, or to purchase some overpriced t-shirts emblazoned with the message "Save a journalist, buy a newspaper."

It's time to admit that, regardless of how many readers may be clicking through newspaper content for free on the Internet, newspapers don't matter to those readers because Jefferson's concerns aren't on their radar. They've got enough to worry about. They've got jobs of their own. They've got this much time to read blog X, Y and Z, and click their way over to the paper and back, or not, or whatever, but there's no compelling reason for them to stop and think about what would happen if the newspapers providing all that news ceased to exist.

To the average reader wolves and sheep are little more than characters in a fairy tale.

It's not that Americans don't care. It's simply a matter of human nature. Until the discomfort reaches the readers -- at which point it will be too late -- there's no motivation for them to get involved in finding a solution.

Clearly newspapers can't solve this alone. They've had years. They're lost. And, at this stage, asking for directions isn't enough to put them back on track.

Now is the time for newspapers to do something proactive; time for them to demonstrate what life would be like without them.

It's time for every daily newspaper in the United States, in cooperation with the Associated Press, to shut down their free Web sites for one week.

Yes. Shut it down. Blank screen. Nothing.

Of course, news would still be reported daily in every newspaper's printed product. No editor, or reporter or publication would dare shirk their watchdog responsibilities. This isn't about stopping the presses.

But the Web? People can do without news on the Web for a week. They won't like it. They'll complain about it. But, that's exactly what has to happen before they can be expected to care.

Pulling the plug gets their attention.

So, here's the proposal: At the stroke of midnight on Independence Day, Saturday July 4, all daily newspapers ought to switch off their Web sites until Friday, July 10.

Call it "A Week Without a Virtual Newspaper." Call it crazy. Call it costly. Call it whatever you want, but it's no more drastic a measure than asking people to work for free.

A move like this puts the crisis where it ought to be, front and center at the top of every newscast. It makes it impossible for anyone to deny where the majority of news content comes from, and why it matters. For without virtual newspapers, what would Drudge report? What would Huffington post? What would Google News and Yahoo News and all those cut-and-paste blogs that get so much of their material from newspapers have to offer if newspapers went away?

Not that there's anything wrong with public affairs blogs, aggregate news sites, or any other online entity that makes use of newspaper reports. The point of pulling the plug for one week isn't to harm them, but to emphasize the origin of all that news content, and why everyone should care about protecting that source.

Pulling the plug is perhaps the only way to make people outside of journalism sit up and take notice that this isn't about jobs in journalism, but American Democracy.

It's about wolves and sheep. Wolves and sheep.

The petition is available online at this link.

-- TJ Sullivan writing in "Native Intelligence"

I do not know how viable the proposed plan is to shut down web-news papers for a day, but I feel strongly that the Jeffersoniam insight that placed newspapers so high on the hierarchy of important parts to our democracy is vital and essential. As commercial upheavals, including the web and fewer branches of ownership of news media gradually overthrow the order of the day, it is truly vital that the vitality provided by newspapers in the Age of Print be preserved in the Age of Information.

Your thoughts and suggested, as always, are greatly appreciated. Wolves and sheep we do not need to become.


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Subject: RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: Ebbie
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 03:03 PM

Hmmmmm. I don't see the problem quite the same way. Since Jefferson had no knowledge of the Internet surely what he really was referring to is communication.

Much as I like newspapers - and love books - as long as I have access to the news of the day and the thoughts of others I don't have to have the physical paper in my hands.

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Subject: RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 03:30 PM

I am down to the Sunday edition of the New York Times.

The local paper here is poor, little of thought in it, so had it discontinued. The major stores have their flyers delivered to one's door, so I see the grocery specials without paying for the paper.

Oh, yes, we also have a tabloid called the Sun, for the sports-minded idiots and the picture of a "Sunshine Girl."

Happily, the online news from the NY Times, the International Herald Tribune, the BBC News, and Al Jazeera keep one fairly well informed.

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Subject: RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: gnu
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 05:03 PM

I agree.

When I was a wee lad, I delivered 107 evening newspapers in my hood. Now, there are 19 deliveries on the same route.

Freedom of the press is not free. And that freedom is essential.

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Subject: RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: katlaughing
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 06:15 PM

I got the same thing in my email, Amos, but I have to say I was underwhelmed. Media of all kinds is dying. Rog and I talk about it almost daily as television, as we know it, is changing drastically and losing out to some extent. Any media which does NOT have an online presence is going to lose out. I don't think shutting down their internet sites is a way to garner support from their readers. The folks who get the hard copies will go on reading them. The folks who read them online will do without them, find someone else's blog to read, or wait them out. A lot of online media do NOT get their material from the hard copies, in fact I would bet it's more the other way round. If they want to survive, they will have to learn to fill the niche online, on cellphones, Amazon's kindle, etc. It's called "evolution" and they will have to work hard and be innovative to keep up.

I am all for keeping journalists' jobs going; heck I even used to write for the papers, but most journos, these days, that I know, are online, too. I wish them all good luck. I used to get the daily and read it religiously, for all kinds of personal and business reasons. Now, I read a wider variety on the 'net and have no need for the paper kind. Plus the papers I used to read are piss poor in print these days.

I don't mean to rant, but I don't think the campaign was well thought out. It sounds more like a desperate, I'm-gonna-hold-my-breath OR you-can't-play-in-my-yard kind of thing than a wake up call to readers.

And, if the internet goes to hell and we're all left behind, well, then we can fire up those presses and start in on the handbills, again.:-)

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Subject: RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: WyoWoman
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 07:35 PM

The thing is, if we lose the watchdog function of the press, we lose democracy. And what's being lost is precisely that. Most of the online "news" sources that we've grown so fond of aggregate their information from newspaper stories -- digging and research and interview time and writing that they don't pay for. So while people say they like to get their news online -- and I do too, even though I'm a former newspaper editor -- the source of the true depth of reporting is swiftly ebbing away, and we'll all be poorer for it.

The bloggers aren't generally reporters, They're usually doing their blogging on the basis of articles they've read and the reporting of others. And sometimes just fabricating "stories" or reporting rumors. We have to have people trained as reporters and editors who take the time and the trouble and have the commitment to dig and to shine light where the powerful or the privileged or the people we've hired as public servants don't necessarily want it shone.

I know for a fact how expensive and time-consuming that is, but also what a difference it can make. As a journalist, I've personally been responsible for altering some social conditions or blowing the whistle on someone who was misusing taxpayer resources. It matters to do that, and the online news sources, so far, really aren't the ones out there doing that work.

Maybe what will shake out of this is that we'll all end up paying for our online news, which is what needs to happen if any original reporting is going to get done. Or develop a new paradigm in which a free press is paid for without strings by citizens when they sign up for internet access . Something's gotta give, but it can't be daily journalism.

Yes, newspapers have undergone a serious decline lately. Partly that's because cutbacks make it difficult to cover all the bases, and partly it's because of fundamental changes in the kind of people who've been running things, and also in the media's attempt to be fair and balanced at the expense of being bright, persistent and incisive. Newspapers need help and change in a variety of ways. But that doesn't mean what they've traditionally provided to our society can be allowed to just drift away. It will, eventually, be noticed.

But this isn't about saving journalist jobs, it's about saving the function of a free press in a very challenged democracy.


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Subject: RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: kendall
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 08:19 PM

At least, Rupert Murdock doesn't own the internet...yet.

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Subject: RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 08:26 PM

You are too late. The watchdog function of the press has long been lost. The watchdog funtion of TV was also lost when Murdoch and Turner beat the regulators out of a requirement of balance.

Alas the internet does not deliver the same authority or coverage.

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Subject: RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: Amos
Date: 10 Feb 09 - 11:08 AM

"...the harsh truth is that the typical American newspaper is an anachronism. It is an artifact from a time when chopping down trees was essential to telling the news, and when you couldn't get The New York Times or The Washington Post closer to your bed than the front door, where the local paper lies, sopping wet.

The Times, The Post and a few others probably will survive. When the recession ends, advertising will come back, with fewer places to go. There will be a couple of surprises — local papers that execute their transfer to the Web so brilliantly that they will earn a national readership (like the old Manchester Guardian in England). Or some Web site might mutate into a real Web newspaper.

With even half a dozen papers, the American newspaper industry will be more competitive than it was when there were hundreds. Competition will keep the Baghdad bureaus open and the investigative units stoked with dudgeon. Competition is growing as well among Web sites that think there is money to be made performing the local paper's local functions. One or two of these will turn out to be right. And then, who will pay even a nickel for the hometown rag?"

Michael Kinsley --the founding editor of Slate magazine--in the NYT.

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Subject: RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: maire-aine
Date: 10 Feb 09 - 03:51 PM

For the last few years I've only subscribed to the Sat/Sun edition of the Detroit Free Press, but when it came up for renewal in December, I decided to cancel. Money was only a small part of the reason, but value was important. I didn't feel that I was getting enough out of it to be worth the money. About the only thing I needed was the TV listing and some of the grocery coupons. Considering how much trash I was sending to the recycling center, I thought it was very wasteful.

I generally get my news by going out to look for it. During the election, I made use of and sites like TruthOut and CommonDreams. Every Monday and Friday, I read Paul Krugman's column in the NYTimes. The rest I get from books and magazines. I check the list of articles in The New Yorker (I always look to see what Seymour Hirsch) has written and Harper's Magazine(you have to pay for most of Harper's articles online), and pick up a copy at the newsstand if there is something I want to read.

I keep my eyes open for articles about healthcare, because that's my issue for the moment. And I get a lot of articles sent from friends, which often lead me to other sites. I also check my city's website for local events. And if I'm looking for a particular subject, I'll do a yahoo search or check Wikipedia if it's only a simple fact (like when someone was born or died or something that doesn't require an opinion). I'm only slightly interested in the info-tainment that is really just celebrity gossip.

I'm disappointed that real journalism (telling the truth, no matter how unpalatable) just doesn't happen anymore. Nothing is a fact any more. Everything is "up for debate" or "in dispute". BS! How about a news reporter coming right out and saying, with accurate statistics to back it up, whether tax cuts really work to stimulate the economy. I don't think they could. They're doing a dis-service to the viewing public.


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Subject: RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: Riginslinger
Date: 11 Feb 09 - 07:46 AM

I agree with Richard, though for slightly different reasons. I think it's too late because the major newspapers in
America have fallen into the hands of people with a political agenda that only works to enrichen themselves. That and the fact that the newspapers are now organized into "chains." I'm not sure how many papers the New York Times owns, the Boston Globe, I think, and several others.

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Subject: RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: Riginslinger
Date: 11 Feb 09 - 05:02 PM

These papers are owned by the New York Times:

The Boston Globe of Boston, Massachusetts
Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, Massachusetts

and these:

TimesDaily of Florence, Alabama
The Gadsden Times of Gadsden, Alabama
The Tuscaloosa News of Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Petaluma Argus-Courier of Petaluma, California (weekly)
The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, California
The Gainesville Sun of Gainesville, Florida
The Ledger of Lakeland, Florida
Sarasota Herald-Tribune of Sarasota, Florida
Star-Banner of Ocala, Florida
The Courier of Houma, Louisiana
The Daily Comet of Thibodaux, Louisiana
The Dispatch of Lexington, North Carolina
Times-News of Hendersonville, North Carolina
The Star-News of Wilmington, North Carolina
Spartanburg Herald-Journal of Spartanburg, South Carolina

[edit] Other

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Subject: RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: Bill D
Date: 11 Feb 09 - 05:50 PM

It will be interesting to see it all plays out. *IF* most print papers quit, there will need to be a new way to do certain advertising. (employment & such) Groceries are being advertised by stack of circulars IN the stores...but that limits planning.
'Most' comics are available online, but exactly who PAYS editorial cartoonists is in flux...

   Not cutting down millions of trees to make paper may or may not be in our interest....lots of jobs involved.

There are so many implications & variables involved...both economically and culturally.

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Subject: RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: Bill D
Date: 11 Feb 09 - 05:54 PM

But... in 1951-1953 or so, my brother & I managed 2 paper routes of about 230 customers, and even then, there were many folks who did not subscribe. They just did without BOTH printed news and advertising. And we were just beginning to get TV then... most news was radio.

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Subject: RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 11 Feb 09 - 06:19 PM

Twice a week, we receive a bundle of flyers with all the grocery and department store and liquor and automobile and other local marketer offers. The local (chain) newspaper prints the bumff.
News? He, he, he.

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Subject: RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Feb 09 - 07:47 PM

To find out about a story you know about, using the Internet is at present a better way than relying on a single story, or on TB news.

But to get an overview of what is happening in the world, and finding which stories you want to find out more about, there is at present no substitute for a good newspaper, on real paper. Even an online version of the same newspaper, with all the same stories and more doesn't replace the hard copy version, it just supplements it - the same way an online book doesn't replace a real book as a way to read an extended narrative or whatever.

Unfortunately that doesn't mean we aren't going to lose most of our newspapers, and live in a society where enormous numbers of people will have lost the ability to make use of the ones that survive. Whether it comes to food, music or communication, the old adage "bad money drives out good" tends to be true.

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Subject: RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: Riginslinger
Date: 11 Feb 09 - 09:07 PM

Unfortunately the internet and other media outlets take their lead from newspapers. The will start with, "This piece on Sarah Palin showed up in the New york Times this morning," and then they're off with it. So the major newspapers are still setting the agenda for what the public perceives as the news.

                When all of the papers are controlled by a small connected group it's not a good thing.

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Subject: RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep
From: GUEST,Jts
Date: 12 Feb 09 - 02:34 PM

It will work its self out. Paper newspapers are a waste of resources. buying one just delays the inevitable.

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