Newspapers are dead…

On November 18, 2005, I told San Jose State’s Journalism school that my son would never subscribe to, nor read, a newspaper.

I thoroughly believe that. I’ve seen the future of newspapers (and really all printed content) and it isn’t print. Let’s talk more this summer after I can show it  to you.

I told the faculty there that deep changes must be made. They haven’t yet listened (although they added one podcasting class that is pretty popular now).

Today I read all over the blogs (thanks Tim O’Reilly and Dave Winer) that the San Francisco Chronicle is rumored to be in deep financial pain.

The industry has NOT invested in its future. It is reaping the rewards of that.

How many future journalists are being trained for the online world?

I can tell you how many: zero.

When I talked with students back then about half thought they were going to work in newspapers.

I told them they were smoking crack.

The journalism industry needs to implement major, wholesale, changes. Start by reading Dave Winer’s suggestions.

What would you do if you ran a journalism school? Or, were an executive at a newspaper?

Both Bay Area major newspapers have been laying journalists off in droves. It’s so sad, but it was something that we could see coming for quite a while. The trend will continue.

184 thoughts on “Newspapers are dead…

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  2. Of course there is pushback to the changes going on in Journalism education at SJSU and they are damned frustrating. Not all the pushback is from faculty in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, we are getting a lot of pushback from the students themselves.

    One would think the students would come into the classes knowing how to use the basic software we use in preparing content for on-line distribution, but most do not. There is a need to provide this training. Without this basic computer literacy it is hard to move forward as far as I would like to in the class.

    It is human nature to resist change because change is hard work. But, I am encouraged there is so much interest on the part of students, faculty and staff in the new media classes. It was thrilling to walk into my class at the beginning of this semester and see 14 students waiting to add.

  3. Of course there is pushback to the changes going on in Journalism education at SJSU and they are damned frustrating. Not all the pushback is from faculty in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, we are getting a lot of pushback from the students themselves.

    One would think the students would come into the classes knowing how to use the basic software we use in preparing content for on-line distribution, but most do not. There is a need to provide this training. Without this basic computer literacy it is hard to move forward as far as I would like to in the class.

    It is human nature to resist change because change is hard work. But, I am encouraged there is so much interest on the part of students, faculty and staff in the new media classes. It was thrilling to walk into my class at the beginning of this semester and see 14 students waiting to add.

  4. The thing is in this country every corporation and media company thinks that the general public is stupid. I do not think I can really blame them, as the general public has time and again proven it’s stupidity by believing people like Bush. Everyone in the world believed that there was no reason for Iraq before it started, but, for some ungodly reason people in US chose to believe him and supported this disaster. Look at most of the print media that’s dying. Believe it or not, a zookeeper dying is not news. Worse, because the zookeeper died from her own mistake, she’s not a hero. There are bigger heroes in the world. People who go to Africa and know the risk of dying out there, but choose to do so anyways to help people, they are heroes.
    Journalists are those who bring you REAL news, not what/who Anna Nicole was. Newspapers like NY Times succeed because they print a broader view of things, they provide you with REAL news. With all the problems in this country and the world, who cares about stupid stuff like Anna Nicole. Turn on BBC and see what is happening in the world.
    Robert, the reason print will not die is because it gives people a sense of legitimacy. If your name in printed in NY Times, what will you do? You will go and buy a copy and then cut out the article and stick it somewhere. That right there is the reason, it will not die. Regional views will die, and that has nothing to do with just print. I live in Denver and stopped subscribing to the Denver Post a while back, because I wasn’t getting any news. Their online edition is the same, no National news. I switched to NY Times because it tells me National news, I am not interested in useless stuff like there was a bomb scare. It was a scare, nothing happened there, move on. That is not news.
    This is the spelling of conundrum, check yours. This is the reason, newspapers are not dead. Blogging gives people easy access to a lot of news in real time, but, the actual newspapers have quality. Publications like NY Times and media outlets like BBC give you a world view on things. The give you news as well as enhance your reading skills and vocabulary. The crossword is something you do with the family. It is an easier way to teach your children language skills and a variety of topics. Things like this is why the print is NOT dead.

  5. The thing is in this country every corporation and media company thinks that the general public is stupid. I do not think I can really blame them, as the general public has time and again proven it’s stupidity by believing people like Bush. Everyone in the world believed that there was no reason for Iraq before it started, but, for some ungodly reason people in US chose to believe him and supported this disaster. Look at most of the print media that’s dying. Believe it or not, a zookeeper dying is not news. Worse, because the zookeeper died from her own mistake, she’s not a hero. There are bigger heroes in the world. People who go to Africa and know the risk of dying out there, but choose to do so anyways to help people, they are heroes.
    Journalists are those who bring you REAL news, not what/who Anna Nicole was. Newspapers like NY Times succeed because they print a broader view of things, they provide you with REAL news. With all the problems in this country and the world, who cares about stupid stuff like Anna Nicole. Turn on BBC and see what is happening in the world.
    Robert, the reason print will not die is because it gives people a sense of legitimacy. If your name in printed in NY Times, what will you do? You will go and buy a copy and then cut out the article and stick it somewhere. That right there is the reason, it will not die. Regional views will die, and that has nothing to do with just print. I live in Denver and stopped subscribing to the Denver Post a while back, because I wasn’t getting any news. Their online edition is the same, no National news. I switched to NY Times because it tells me National news, I am not interested in useless stuff like there was a bomb scare. It was a scare, nothing happened there, move on. That is not news.
    This is the spelling of conundrum, check yours. This is the reason, newspapers are not dead. Blogging gives people easy access to a lot of news in real time, but, the actual newspapers have quality. Publications like NY Times and media outlets like BBC give you a world view on things. The give you news as well as enhance your reading skills and vocabulary. The crossword is something you do with the family. It is an easier way to teach your children language skills and a variety of topics. Things like this is why the print is NOT dead.

  6. there was a saying around my university’s newsroom when i worked there–you never know where you might find journalists, but it almost assuredly won’t be in the journalism department. the only people involved with that paper, one of the largest college dailies in the country, with any affiliation with the journalism dept. were either double-majors with something else or journalism minors. journalism majors were famous for coming down to the paper two weeks before graduation expecting to get assignments so they could get clips. you might have been talking to the wrong crowd, robert.

  7. there was a saying around my university’s newsroom when i worked there–you never know where you might find journalists, but it almost assuredly won’t be in the journalism department. the only people involved with that paper, one of the largest college dailies in the country, with any affiliation with the journalism dept. were either double-majors with something else or journalism minors. journalism majors were famous for coming down to the paper two weeks before graduation expecting to get assignments so they could get clips. you might have been talking to the wrong crowd, robert.

  8. It would be said if there were no journalists and newspapers. I like read printed newspapers. Internet, blogs, podcasts or portals aren’t the same as real newspaper.

  9. It would be said if there were no journalists and newspapers. I like read printed newspapers. Internet, blogs, podcasts or portals aren’t the same as real newspaper.

  10. Like many others have said, newspapers are extremely valuable in the sense that they provide a level of depth that online news sites or blogs will never match – they perform a watchdog function rather than an offering an information blitz.

    The nature of internet news is that it’s fast and quickly digestable – but in this hasty format the important nuances and details of a story will inevitably be omitted.

    This notion that all print media will die out is quite frankly silly – people will always want something they can carry with them, they like the aesthetic of the paper and the magazine; it holds a certain artistic quality.

    Your theory is based on the assumption that since the internet is blowing up now it will always continue to do so – but media change, and so do people’s preferences.

    Indeed, traditional news may feel the sting of the Internet boom, but it will adapt – and as long as someone enjoys sitting in the cafe getting newsprint on their fingers – it will coexist.

  11. Like many others have said, newspapers are extremely valuable in the sense that they provide a level of depth that online news sites or blogs will never match – they perform a watchdog function rather than an offering an information blitz.

    The nature of internet news is that it’s fast and quickly digestable – but in this hasty format the important nuances and details of a story will inevitably be omitted.

    This notion that all print media will die out is quite frankly silly – people will always want something they can carry with them, they like the aesthetic of the paper and the magazine; it holds a certain artistic quality.

    Your theory is based on the assumption that since the internet is blowing up now it will always continue to do so – but media change, and so do people’s preferences.

    Indeed, traditional news may feel the sting of the Internet boom, but it will adapt – and as long as someone enjoys sitting in the cafe getting newsprint on their fingers – it will coexist.

  12. Interesting point of view to generate debate – I once went to a presentation to hear the Australasian CEO of Coca Cola Amatil. I went up to meet him after the presentation as he was being interviewed by two journalists.

    The first asked, “are you interested in the milk brands of xyz company?”. The response was, “well, we haven’t been specifically looking at it, but if it were a fit with our strategy, and the price was right, well, we’d consider looking at it..”

    The next day the headline read, “Coca Cola Amatil eyes off XYZ Company Milk brands”.

    Are newspapers dead? Not yet – people like the tactile format. I think that it is complementary information delivery, and the consumption of information has vastly grown. However, much of the consumption still lies in trash journalism – and much of the web content consumption is the same.

  13. Interesting point of view to generate debate – I once went to a presentation to hear the Australasian CEO of Coca Cola Amatil. I went up to meet him after the presentation as he was being interviewed by two journalists.

    The first asked, “are you interested in the milk brands of xyz company?”. The response was, “well, we haven’t been specifically looking at it, but if it were a fit with our strategy, and the price was right, well, we’d consider looking at it..”

    The next day the headline read, “Coca Cola Amatil eyes off XYZ Company Milk brands”.

    Are newspapers dead? Not yet – people like the tactile format. I think that it is complementary information delivery, and the consumption of information has vastly grown. However, much of the consumption still lies in trash journalism – and much of the web content consumption is the same.

  14. Give me three good BLOGGERS …
    I simply can’t tell the difference anymore. Sorry. Most reporters interview committed, articulate, passionate, skilled, professionals … who now blog.

    Because as much as mainstream media can be lazy and tends towards being an echo chamber the “blogosphere” is nigh-infinitely worse. The “oh, i saw it in a blog, I’ll quote it and assume it’s true” stuff that happens all the time is bad enough now.

  15. Give me three good BLOGGERS …
    I simply can’t tell the difference anymore. Sorry. Most reporters interview committed, articulate, passionate, skilled, professionals … who now blog.

    Because as much as mainstream media can be lazy and tends towards being an echo chamber the “blogosphere” is nigh-infinitely worse. The “oh, i saw it in a blog, I’ll quote it and assume it’s true” stuff that happens all the time is bad enough now.

  16. camccune at #54 basically asked ‘If the print media were so good at going deep, how did we end up in Iraq?’ (yes I paraphrased that).

    It’s a great question! It hints at a world where no one is really going deep, checking facts. Where collossal blunders are the result of a few master media spinners are able to keep a myopic press dancing to their tune with juicy tidbits and constant misdirection so that the public never really sees the big picture.

    So, my counter question to camccune is: what if Iraq is just the *first* sign of the decline in depth journalism? How much *worse* can it get, if we shutdown the papers and feed daily at the blog trough?

  17. camccune at #54 basically asked ‘If the print media were so good at going deep, how did we end up in Iraq?’ (yes I paraphrased that).

    It’s a great question! It hints at a world where no one is really going deep, checking facts. Where collossal blunders are the result of a few master media spinners are able to keep a myopic press dancing to their tune with juicy tidbits and constant misdirection so that the public never really sees the big picture.

    So, my counter question to camccune is: what if Iraq is just the *first* sign of the decline in depth journalism? How much *worse* can it get, if we shutdown the papers and feed daily at the blog trough?

  18. Proper, intelligent, skilled journalism sells itself, whether its print, radio, on the Internet or on television. Give me three good, dedicated reporters and a modem and I can run any corporate-run profit-driven media outlet out of business in a year.
    Give me three good BLOGGERS …
    I simply can’t tell the difference anymore. Sorry. Most reporters interview committed, articulate, passionate, skilled, professionals … who now blog.

  19. Proper, intelligent, skilled journalism sells itself, whether its print, radio, on the Internet or on television. Give me three good, dedicated reporters and a modem and I can run any corporate-run profit-driven media outlet out of business in a year.
    Give me three good BLOGGERS …
    I simply can’t tell the difference anymore. Sorry. Most reporters interview committed, articulate, passionate, skilled, professionals … who now blog.

  20. “Also, the great scandals might be reported by people inside via anonymous blogs. Look at Mini Microsoft or the EA Spouse blogs for evidence of that. Improprieties inside organizations can get reported now by anonymous whistle blowers.”

    But isn’t Mini-Microsoft just a coward (I think I read that here)? We’re putting faith into people who do not have an institution, let alone lawyers, to back them up? And with what agenda? If someone – government, corporations, whatever – shakes the cage of an anonymous blogger, that voice will go silent. A newspaper writer can at least aim for awards and recognition and know that a whole profession supports the writer and the risks the writer is willing to take.

  21. “Also, the great scandals might be reported by people inside via anonymous blogs. Look at Mini Microsoft or the EA Spouse blogs for evidence of that. Improprieties inside organizations can get reported now by anonymous whistle blowers.”

    But isn’t Mini-Microsoft just a coward (I think I read that here)? We’re putting faith into people who do not have an institution, let alone lawyers, to back them up? And with what agenda? If someone – government, corporations, whatever – shakes the cage of an anonymous blogger, that voice will go silent. A newspaper writer can at least aim for awards and recognition and know that a whole profession supports the writer and the risks the writer is willing to take.

  22. Re-entering a thread that has gone through 70-odd permutations is daunting.

    Let’s see if we can get back on track for a moment.

    The fact that newspapers seem to be going through a period of consolidation seems indisputable. For example, my hometown Santa Cruz Sentinel plans to shut down its presses and take its printing over the hill to San Jose where the Media General bosses are outsourcing much of the composition work to India.

    Whether this represents the death throes of journalism or just smart business practices is open to debate. Clearly the internet and its attendant opportunities to present news in many forms has impacted the established press.

    Craigslist has all but wiped out classified ads. Bloggers have challenged journalists’ monopoly on news gathering. Fat profits in the newspaper industry have dwindled of late and heads have rolled at papers of all sizes across the country.

    Yet some newspapers are expanding while others retract. The New York Times seems to get stronger every month with an ever expanding local home delivery system in farflung places like Santa Cruz.

    This indicates to me we’ll soon see a weeding out of the industry. Certain large newspapers like the Times will survive while the medium to small ones like the San Jose Mercury News will contract and become shells of what they once were.

    There will still be newspapers in the short term future, but fewer of them. Not all cities and towns will still have one of their own as is the case today. Bigger ones will regionalize and try to fill the void by printing special editions for select areas.

    I don’t see this retrenchment strategy succeeding in the long run. The costs of print—including the machinery, paper and personnel—combined with the costs of delivering and recycling the product everyday represents a tremendous obstacle.

    Moreover, the reading habits of the populace seem to indicate newspapers will dwindle. The best newspaper readers, 45 and above, are dying out. The next generations have not been habituated to the practice.

    For me, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” newspapers will die. That is why it is so important for journalism schools like SJSU to rise to the challenge.

    We have to educate both practitioners and the public how to interact with the new media environment. Bloggers have to learn the benefits of truthful, incisive story telling. The public has to learn how to separate rumor from reason.

    As the recent Frontline series pointed out, much of this nation’s hard news still comes from the minds of its newspaper reporters. Without them, our daily budget of what to think about could soon consist of ever more shallow superficial items.

  23. Re-entering a thread that has gone through 70-odd permutations is daunting.

    Let’s see if we can get back on track for a moment.

    The fact that newspapers seem to be going through a period of consolidation seems indisputable. For example, my hometown Santa Cruz Sentinel plans to shut down its presses and take its printing over the hill to San Jose where the Media General bosses are outsourcing much of the composition work to India.

    Whether this represents the death throes of journalism or just smart business practices is open to debate. Clearly the internet and its attendant opportunities to present news in many forms has impacted the established press.

    Craigslist has all but wiped out classified ads. Bloggers have challenged journalists’ monopoly on news gathering. Fat profits in the newspaper industry have dwindled of late and heads have rolled at papers of all sizes across the country.

    Yet some newspapers are expanding while others retract. The New York Times seems to get stronger every month with an ever expanding local home delivery system in farflung places like Santa Cruz.

    This indicates to me we’ll soon see a weeding out of the industry. Certain large newspapers like the Times will survive while the medium to small ones like the San Jose Mercury News will contract and become shells of what they once were.

    There will still be newspapers in the short term future, but fewer of them. Not all cities and towns will still have one of their own as is the case today. Bigger ones will regionalize and try to fill the void by printing special editions for select areas.

    I don’t see this retrenchment strategy succeeding in the long run. The costs of print—including the machinery, paper and personnel—combined with the costs of delivering and recycling the product everyday represents a tremendous obstacle.

    Moreover, the reading habits of the populace seem to indicate newspapers will dwindle. The best newspaper readers, 45 and above, are dying out. The next generations have not been habituated to the practice.

    For me, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” newspapers will die. That is why it is so important for journalism schools like SJSU to rise to the challenge.

    We have to educate both practitioners and the public how to interact with the new media environment. Bloggers have to learn the benefits of truthful, incisive story telling. The public has to learn how to separate rumor from reason.

    As the recent Frontline series pointed out, much of this nation’s hard news still comes from the minds of its newspaper reporters. Without them, our daily budget of what to think about could soon consist of ever more shallow superficial items.

  24. @54 “It’s taken the news media more than four years to start getting to the bottom of some of the lies that got us into that god-awful mess.”

    How do you know we’ve “gotten to the bottom of it?” Do you really we are getting the COMPLETE story? Both GOOD and BAD? I mean, seriously. It seems most journalists in D.C. today want to be the next Woodward or Bernstein. They are no better than tabloid journalists…looking to see the next scandal they can break or politician they can take down. Despite the “god awful truth” we’ve supposed gotten around Iraq, I seriously doubt even now we are hearing “the truth” Every journalist has an agenda. No journalist is unbiased. Hell, even every blogger has an agenda. Even Scoble. He will rarely,if ever, listen to a or consider a contrary opinion about blogging. So, IMHO, journalism has been “dead” since Watergate.

  25. @54 “It’s taken the news media more than four years to start getting to the bottom of some of the lies that got us into that god-awful mess.”

    How do you know we’ve “gotten to the bottom of it?” Do you really we are getting the COMPLETE story? Both GOOD and BAD? I mean, seriously. It seems most journalists in D.C. today want to be the next Woodward or Bernstein. They are no better than tabloid journalists…looking to see the next scandal they can break or politician they can take down. Despite the “god awful truth” we’ve supposed gotten around Iraq, I seriously doubt even now we are hearing “the truth” Every journalist has an agenda. No journalist is unbiased. Hell, even every blogger has an agenda. Even Scoble. He will rarely,if ever, listen to a or consider a contrary opinion about blogging. So, IMHO, journalism has been “dead” since Watergate.

  26. Interesting ideas, but I would have to disagree, for most of the reasons already listed in other comments.

    Proper, intelligent, skilled journalism sells itself, whether its print, radio, on the Internet or on television. Give me three good, dedicated reporters and a modem and I can run any corporate-run profit-driven media outlet out of business in a year.

    When the newspaper industry realizes it had it right in the first place, and goes back to pure and proper journalism, it’ll start climbing out of the hole media corporations dug for it.

  27. Interesting ideas, but I would have to disagree, for most of the reasons already listed in other comments.

    Proper, intelligent, skilled journalism sells itself, whether its print, radio, on the Internet or on television. Give me three good, dedicated reporters and a modem and I can run any corporate-run profit-driven media outlet out of business in a year.

    When the newspaper industry realizes it had it right in the first place, and goes back to pure and proper journalism, it’ll start climbing out of the hole media corporations dug for it.

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