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March 27, 2009 / Kuan

Justify newspaper’s demise

Late editor John Walter wrote an essay about three key people to blame for the newspaper’s demise. Here is how I look at these three individual and the demise in general:

Name: A.J. Liebling

Crime: Called attention to the fact that competition between newspaper is over

Justification: Although someone may argue that no one wants to read the same story on two different subscribed papers, journalism’s principle of objectivity must be preserved. Different views points, angles of one single story provide readers a range of perspectives that they can take on.

That’s why people have their favorite papers. One like this paper’s voice, others may not. Vice versa. The more competition, the more benefits readers are getting.

Name: Unknown, a layout designer

Crime: Started the idea of stretch the one-column straight down article into horizontal boxes

Justification: I agree/laughed at this point:

They lost, thereby, a sense of urgency, and the thing that made them look like, well, newspapers. And it got worse; eventually layout editors were replaced by something called design directors, and design directors took to running pictures of large vegetables, first in black and white and later in color, and newspapering went all soft and squishy as hell.

Photos of large vegetables on newspaper are not very essential to the stories, I guess. I can also feel a sense of urgency in newspapers if they are like this. But they are NOT the reasons why I will read it. I will read it in that layout if the paper is about pure news, no ads in less then 6 pages.

Because that’s all I want from a newspaper: news on a paper.

Thirty-page designed newspaper does look nice, but 50% of ads throws me off half a mile away, and the length just won’t motivate me to open the page.

Name: Al Neuharth

Crime: Letting public companies buy newspapers

Justification: Think of this quote for a minute:

The public companies gobbled up more and more papers and created more and more monopolies and stretched their earnings to 20 or 30 percent and … we know the end of this story.

Newspapers earn revenue/feed their report, photographers, editors, etc mainly by selling advertising. I have to admit that no matter how much I dislike advertising, I think it is the backbone of newspaper industry cycle.

More ads -> More income -> Better reporting -> Better articles -> More readers -> More ads.

I was talking to an wood carving artist for my photo story today, and one thing he said actually echoed Walter’s idea on newspaper’s demise: in the end, it’s about business. It’s the demand-and-supply chain. If the readers want it, it won’t go away. If it did, it means most people finds some other alternatives, and we need to adopt that, and readopt ourselves to fit in the world.


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