Media criticism

Critical mass *

In today's Times, editorial page editor Andrés Martinez writes that "working at a major metropolitan newspaper these days can feel a bit like working for the East German Politburo, circa 1988. It's a good gig with great benefits, and people seek you out at cocktail parties, but you have this sense that your days are numbered." Bloggers, he says, are "eating our lunch." He argues that while the game is not up, and he expects them to adapt, "newspapers are undoubtedly in for a period of wrenching change, especially in terms of how the product will be delivered." In his view, it's "only a matter of time before a Yahoo or a Google decides to buy an old media company" to acquire its news-reporting talent — and he notes that Google is worth many times the value of the Wall Street Journal.

It's an extraordinary piece for the editor of the L.A. Times editorial page, especially since there are no indications that the leadership of the news side shares his sense of a coming seismic shudder. I read it just after hearing Hugh Hewitt predict the sudden collapse of newspapers as a business, led by the Times. His arguments were wishful thinking by a conservative activist-talk show host touting a book, but there's plenty of cooler analysis around suggesting something is happening. Three pieces being talked about on blogs all over the country should be pondered by journalists and those of us who believe in what we do: Rupert Murdoch's speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen's blog piece Laying the Newspaper Gently Down to Die, and especially former San Francisco Examiner A.M.E. Tim Porter's The Mood of the Newsroom (bad link fixed):

"In the last 18 months I've interviewed several hundred journalists - reporters, photographers, copy editors, executive editors, designers, graphic artists. I've been in newspaper newsrooms of more than 500 people and in newsrooms of less than 50. It has been an immersion course in the mood of the press - and much of it hasn't been pretty...

I didn't think, given the scrappy newsrooms from which I sprang, the day would come when I'd say the responsibility for the decline of newspapers as the principal platform for journalism is shared equally by the journalists and the publishers. But that day has come. Shame on you both.

Some news too: At the Hewitt event, bloggers Armed Liberal (Marc Danziger) and Roger L. Simon unveiled Pajamas Media, an alliance they say will attempt to lure national advertising to blogs. They say 200 bloggers (150 of them military) have signed up, with the goal both to make some money and create an international alt-media news service. Danziger says the effort is politically neutral, but he conceded that most of the participants so far are right of center (and straddlers Simon and Danziger.)

Reax: All the anti-journalist and anti-LAT talk by Hewitt and friends [Mickey Kaus: "It would be a tragedy if newspapers went out of business, but it wouldn't be a tragedy if the L.A. Times went out of business"] got under the skin of LA Voice editor Mack Reed...Hewitt's recap and prepared remarks, and comprehensive links from Patterico.

More by Kevin Roderick:
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