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April 27, 2006

The business of the newspaper business

Carroll addressed ASNE in Seattle yesterday about how quickly the print industry is tanking, and why, and why it matters. It's a popular topic, but Carroll always sums things up acutely. (Found via Romanesko.)

We have seen a narrowing of the purpose of the newspaper in the eyes of its owner. Under the old local owners, a newspaper's capacity for making money was only part of its value. Today it is everything. Gone is the notion that a newspaper should lead, that it as an obligation to its community, that it is beholden to the public.

This phenomenon he illustrates is one of the main reasons I wasn't sorry when the LAT gave me the boot in a ploy for higher profit margins. Companies with this philosophy staff departments that have to live by this philosophy, even if they don't believe it themselves. The result is fewer staff, overworked staff, vicious inside politics, increasingly low morale, and often a diminishing product (albeit with occasional rays of light sparked by the kind of creativity required to accomplish Good in a limited situation).

He goes on to point out that due to capital gains tax laws, it's more advantageous for corporations to trade large companies for stock, than for an individual buyer to buy outright and get hit up with hefty tax.

Carroll recommends The Elements of Journalism, by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, as a clarification of journalists' beliefs, in the face of impersonal corporate moneygrubbing.

By the way, have you ever wondered about the diversity of journalists and newsrooms? They aren't. A recent ASNE study puts minorities at 13.87% of newsroom staff, with one quarter of US newspapers staffed wholly by white journalists. On the upside, this is up from 3.95% in 1978. (Also via Romenesko.)

Posted by sedda at April 27, 2006 12:04 PM