Sunday, May 22, 2011

How Newspapers in America are Killing Themselves

Tip-o-the-hat to Avedon for picking this up from somewhere: Michael Moore at the Fairness and Accuracy in Media 25th anniversary conference a month ago.
[13:28] Newspapers are having a hard time. We hear this all the time, right? They're having a difficult time making it these days because of the Internet. The Internet's killing the papers. Really? Really? How many papers are going under in Europe? How come the papers there aren't dying? Why are the papers there still surviving? I think Europe got the Internet, like a year or two ago. Pretty certain that they have the Internet in Europe. Why is it that in country like Sweden they sell a daily newspaper per person for the entire population that's [one for every] man, woman and child every single day; or a city like London has eleven daily newspapers; why newspapers still continue to thrive in Europe but are dying here?
[14:25] Well I'd like to put forth three reasons. Number One, the newspapers in this country and the media in general made a decision some time ago to participate in the dumbing down of our society. And I received's an odd thing to want to make your customers stupid because by making them stupid they won't care to read what's in your paper. You would think you want your customers smart. And - about fifteen years ago I received a memo, a copy of a newspaper and this had gone out from the publisher and the managing editor and it was encouraging writers to try and keep words at three syllables or less, occasionally the fourth syllable word was O.K. It was just the most bizarre thing to read. ...
[15:58] Number Two, in the seventeen presidential elections between 1940 and 2004 the majority of the American daily newspapers, in fourteen of those seventeen elections endorsed the Republican for President of the United States, in fourteen of the seventeen presidential elections in during that time span. So, in other words, let me get this straight, the papers were endorsing the party that wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that wanted to destroy the teacher's unions, and have funding for education be on the lowest rungs of the ladder. In other words, helping to make people stupid and illiterate.
[17:38] Third reason, the reason newspapers are not having as hard of a time in Europe as they are in this country, and that's not to say they aren't having a hard time because the economy and what has happened globally has affected every business including newspapers no matter where they're at. But their business model is different, for the most part, than it is in this country. Our business model for our papers is the primary source of revenue to fund the newspaper is advertising; circulation is number two. It's the opposite over there.
I am not able at this time to find a link to any other transcript, or to any video of the conference. But Moore's observations strike me as entirely accurate. I have seen a few other analyses of the plight of American newspapers, and they all boil down to the same thing: when newspapers based and managed in one city or town were taken over, big corporate management almost invariably began the process of dumbing down. They cut staff, especially at the investigative reporting desks, lost touch with the local community, and imposed their own mediocre, corporatist-tainted content.

Not content to prove they were stupid by thus destroying newspapers all across America, big corporate managers then proved it again by wondering out loud why their "business model" was failing. Idiots.

Readers of this blog will note how often Jonathan finds interesting material at the websites of European newspapers - and how infrequently in U.S. newspapers.

Avedon's link was to her preceding post, in which she writes:

The media is perfectly happy to be adversarial about what politicians are talking about when it suits them. Unfortunately, these days, "when it suits them" means "when it suits Republicans to be adversarial about what Democrats are saying". Because, of course, these people are just a bunch of millionaire celebrity court scribes, and they don't give a toss about what the rest of the country needs or wants. Which is most emphatically not what a free press is supposed to be about. . . . they're not a free press - they are paid shills for the corporatocracy. . . .
And, here is the FAIR page of links for the question What's Wrong With the News?

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