Two views of newspapers

This weekend's L.A. Times brought two distinct in-house opinions about the future of the medium in which the pieces were printed. On Saturday, media columnist Tim Rutten argued that plunging circulation figures are "a clear challenge to newspaper promotion and circulation departments and in more subtle and complex ways to editors and reporters." But he lectured (with a sarcastic edge) the right-wingers, academics and online evangelists who smugly predict the impending death of newspapers not to be too giddy:

The notion that the advent of new communication technologies in this case digitalization and the Web inevitably spells oblivion for other media has no basis in experience...

The notion that print newspapers won't find ways to adapt, absorb and adjust to the Internet and other new media is as narrow and ahistorical as the insistence by some print media fundamentalists that bloggers aren't journalists and are not entitled to 1st Amendment protections.

Little dig there at the end at his colleague David Shaw, I'd say.

Then on Sunday, Editorial and Opinion Editor Michael Kinsley offers a satirical take that makes clear he wouldn't much miss seeing the news in print:

What could be more common-sense more downright American than chopping down vast acres of trees, loading them onto trucks, driving the trucks to paper mills where the trees are ground into paste and reconstituted as huge rolls of newsprint, which are put back onto trucks and carted across the country to printing plants where they are turned into newspapers as we know them (with sections folded into one another according to a secret formula designed for maximum mess and frustration and known only to a few artisans) and then piled into a third set of trucks that fan out before dawn across every metropolitan area dropping piles here and there so that a network of newspaper deliverers can go house-to-house hiding newspapers in the bushes or throwing them at the cat, and patriotic citizens can ultimately glance at the front page, take Sports to the john, tear out the crossword puzzle and throw the rest away?...

It is up to us, as members of the last generation that experienced life before computer screens, to make sure that future generations of Americans will know what to do when it says "Continued on Page B37."

He proposes, in fun, "a Strategic Newspaper Reserve to reduce the nation's dangerous dependence on foreign news...One possible location for the reserve might be my mother's apartment, where there are already neat piles of newspapers dating back to Watergate that she is going to get to soon."

Kinsley is more of an online convert than the average Times editor, and the belief around his second-floor domain seems to be that he's just passing through this newspaper phase of his life. At a desert retreat of masthead editors last week to brainstorm the future of the Times, it has been said — but not confirmed by me — that his thinking-outside-the-box memo included a suggestion that the editorial page be scrapped as tired and irrelevant.

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