Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Newspapers to journalists: It's not you, baby, it's me

For many in the newspaper business, the report this week that the Christian Science Monitor is getting rid of it's print editions, except for a weekend magazine, was a sign that yes, honey, it is over.
The writing and reporting in the CSM has always been held up as a shining example for young journalists.
But hey, who are we kidding? Even young journalists aren't reading newspapers any more.
Even John Yemma, longtime Boston Globe editor and now editor of the Monitor, is quoted in today's Globe as saying "Everybody seems to recognize that print is on its way out."
Yesterday, my dental hygienist asked me when I mentioned nobody's reading the paper anymore, "So, is everyone reading the internet?"
Reading the internet. Interesting.
No they're not. They're LOOKING AT the internet. Skimming through it. Watching YouTube videos.
My mantra over the past couple years has become "The more information there is available, the less informed people are."
People are now being bombarded with information, constantly. Cell phones that have internet access, texting, computers, Ipods -- there's a constant wall of noise coming at them electronically.
And people are becoming immune to the noise -- the information. If it's not a quick sound bite, they don't know it.
they think they're informed, because of all the noise. So why read a stodgy old newspaper? The noise generation doesn't have the time or inclination to read. Therefor, circulation is going down never to return. And the mean, mean result of that is that newspaper quality has become eroded. Totally eroded in the case of a lot of five-figure circulation dailies who just don't have what it takes money, smarts and talent-wise, to evolve.
Even my sainted mother -- the woman who somehow made six unruly kids the voracious readers and information-gatherers that they are today -- told me the other day she is considering canceling her subsciption to their local paper, the Portland Press Herald because "there's nothing in it."
Granted, Mom and Dad get the Boston Globe, the New York Times and a host of newsmagazines, but still.
I asked her, "Mom, how are you going to know what the City Council is doing?"
"I'll just get it from TV," was her reply.
Et tu, Mom? Et tu?
Obviously, all the railing and navel-gazing by the print journalism industry is not going to change things. We have to jump on board or get out of the road.
But, speaking as a 30-year and third-generation journalist, it is one tough, non-amicable breakup.


Carol Robidoux said...

The good news in all of this is that you are taking your oral health seriously.
Seriously, Mo -- if you can find the answer to this one, you win.

Matt McSorley said...

Mo, this is as well articulated as I've seen anywhere. Cheers to you, my friend. The first one of us who comes up with the solution will never have to work again.