Bad News

When No News Is Bad News: "This matters because of the unique role journalism plays in a democracy. So much public information and official government knowledge depends on a private business model that is now failing." -- James Warren

This is a devastating article about the state of American journalism. And although there are many reports in blogs and the mainstream media covering the fall of journalism, this is a particularly sobering look. The opening story about John Crewdson moved me. I remember studying his stuff on AIDS, Robert Gallo, and Luc Montagnier a long time ago. I probably still have that special report, actually. Warren has many other upsetting stories in his article. Very well written piece. Read it. It`s important. The issues hit you right over the head.

ok ok I'm gonna go read it... Sheesh... :)

Posted by Chris Mahan on January 29, 2009 at 06:59 PM JST #

I'm about 1/2 done reading the article, and I gotta tell you, something obvious is jumping off the page at me:

People aren't willing to pay for something that does not provide value.

So, people don't pay for, don't subscribe to paper newspaper, or even online newspaper? Yet they will pay 20, 30, 40, 50 or more ($49 in my case) for reliable internet access.

The newspaper business model is dead. It's inefficient, and as news aggregation, it's abysmally slow.

ok... I'll read more of the article.

I've finished reading.

The last part of the article can be summarized thus: The journalism business can only survive if it creates good value and charges for it.

That was obvious.

The author also brings in the concept that the citizenry may be caring less about "shedding light" on the dark places of the world, and that a decline in newspaper readership and a decline in funding of the activities of newspapers is an example of that.

I suggest that the opposite is true: The internet has made a lot more information available to the citizenry, both in terms of raw data and in terms of thoughtful analysis. I find that reading some blogs is a much richer experience than reading the newspaper. Yes, I do pick up the paper occasionally, if it's laying around at the coffee shop or at the office. Generally, though, I am disappointed.

I even like The Economist, but find online blogs better.

Now, about the money...

People who do investigative reporting, whether for newspapers, blogs, websites, or books, do it because they love it. I know. I like to do it. But these people have to pay the bills. So they either do it as a job, working at a newspaper, or they do it as a hobby, working at the 9-5 to pay the bills, then burrowing into the shadowy world as their hemisphere sleeps, coaxing information out of the great white mass of disparate data.

Who do I trust more? The astute and college educated amateur who dedicates his spare time to thoroughly research an opaque matter, or the paid-by-the-word journalist at the LA Times? Can I tell?

There is ultimately a need for people to do analysis on all these data points, to gather the streams into one river of knowledge. I think, though, that the small book format is better for that, where it is the author of the book who claims credit for the analysis, not some news corp headquartered in Chicago, and it is the author whose name becomes the brand, not the news corp's.

Is it harder to find what you are looking for? Maybe. But on the other hand, you can get much better, in-depth understanding about an issue by reading a well-written, well-researched book than by reading the newspaper.

Create value and money will flow to it. That's the nature of capitalism. The newspaper business is not valuable, and the money is fleeing. I say that's entirely normal and should not be construed as the end of the world. The end of an inefficiency? Definitely.

Am I offtopic yet? I'll stop.

(I said news corpse... did you catch it?)

Posted by Chris Mahan on January 29, 2009 at 08:28 PM JST #

If it had stuck to the major networks and the national nightly news cast it may have carried more weight.

A different view point can be found at:

There is a point to be made about people just linking to some newspapers web site to siphon off stories.


Posted by Alan Pae on January 29, 2009 at 09:40 PM JST #

I read your blog with interest and didn't find any other way to notify you of this general comment.

I use Firefox and with the current setup, I find it difficult to find the URL links in your posts. They blend in with the text of the blog and show up as URLs only if the mouse is over them.

Could you possibly change the presentation to cleanly highlight the segments of text that actually point to URLs?

Posted by vsp on January 29, 2009 at 11:07 PM JST #

vsp ... I know, sorry about that. I`ll make the links bold from now on. I just posted a new blog. Check it out and let me know if the links are ok. I have tried to muk around with the style sheets but I only end up breaking things. I think just making them bold will solve the problem.

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on January 30, 2009 at 12:52 PM JST #

Chris/Alan ... Totally agree that the business model is broken and that the poor quality is a partially to blame. A great deal of what passes for journalism is garbage, but the problem is that the really great stuff is suffering along the way. And I think that`s the real lesson of this article. The article really doesn`t mention much about the quality issue, though. But the more journalism declines as a viable business, the more I question the bloggers out there. In other words, I don`t see a good replacement for really great journalism. That also comes through in the article for me. I have no answers. I`ve been pissed at journalism just as I get worked up about the pols. I`m partial to the guys who do really in depth work, though. And it`s a shame that their platform is going away. I hope those guys can make a transition to whatever comes next.

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on January 30, 2009 at 01:10 PM JST #

>But the more journalism declines as a viable business, the more I question the bloggers out there. In other words, I don`t see a good replacement for really great journalism.

Sometimes the news people are worse then the bloggers.

I'm looking at the print edition of today's Los Angeles Times and there's a five column article on South Africa which you can view at

So if it's available in both places then someone internally has the a rough estimate on the number of eye balls on each I would imagine. Then it's up to the person in charge to adjust the business model as necessary based on the data that their fed.

As with the nightly news when they start tossing in their own personal belief's and biases then viewership/readership will drop/increase and then like anything else it's the quality of the finished product that determines who gets the sale.


Posted by Alan Pae on January 30, 2009 at 09:07 PM JST #

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