The future of news: rational business decisions

Begin writing the long-term obituary of the American newspaper — at least for the newspaper envisioned by the Founders as a public service and a significant component of the checks and balances that once allowed American democracy to function properly and purposefully.

You think you know the now-familiar story: Advertising revenues are down. Circulation’s declining. Corporate ownership listens to Wall Street instead of Main Street. Newspapers are shedding their older, experienced (read: more expensive to maintain) reporters and other staffers, all in service to the ROI (return on investment) demanded by stockholders of those corporate owners. All to maintain a profit level unmatched by any other American industry.

But that’s not the whole story. Some of that heralded doomsday circulation decline is intentional. The financial rationale behind that self-inflicted injury will have consequences beyond the short-term profitability of print news organizations. It will continue to erode the quality of those corporations’ principal product — journalism. It will taint online news operations — especially those promoted by bloggers as alternatives to mainstream news.
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