Newspapers Are Stupid


The big story here in Denver is that the Rocky Mountain News, one of the city's two major newspapers, published its very last edition today, ending a 150-year run. RMN's coverage of its own demise is here. The main page of the website is running a "best of" slideshow, in which the pictures of the kids with their hands over their faces after the Columbine shooting features prominently.

Meanwhile, back in my old stomping ground, the San Francisco Chronicle is on the brink.

It's certainly terrible when a company goes out of business and a bunch of people find themselves out of work (as happened with my old law firm shortly after I left), but I can't bring myself to join the throngs of hand-wringers and teeth-gnashers bemoaning the slow and painful death of the newspaper industry. As a commenter on another blog said, the idea of using dead trees to deliver news just isn't a viable business model anymore.

The main problems I see with the breakdown of the newspaper business are: (1) increased influence of vapid 24-hour cable news and overtly slanted Internet reporting and (2) decreased access to local news. The latter problem is exacerbated by the dominance of syndicated radio programming and decreased interest in evening television news (which is also tied to the increased popularity of cable news and the Internet). Years ago I would have said that the loss of daily newspaper comics is also a problem, but I haven't been able to read newspaper comics in a very long time.

Ironically, I think local news may be what newspapers should focus on to stay alive. If I want to read about Obama's budget plan or what's going on with the Irish economy, I'm not going to read the Rocky Mountain News or the Denver Post. But there's no better place to get detailed local news coverage - even at the state level - than your local fishwrap, even if you have to pick through dopey stories about high school football and leap year babies to get to the good stuff.

So, best wishes to all the newspaper employees looking for work, and if you'd like to continue to ply your trade in the journalism biz I suggest switching from cellulose to ones and zeroes.


Journalists keep pushing local news, but that's probably not going to work either. The death of newspapers isn't about readers, it's about advertising. Advertisers don't want to advertise in newspapers because they have far better venues. Classifieds, which were HUGE, are now dead.

Newspapers never cared much about their revenue from subscriptions.

I would probably agree if it weren't for the fact that my wife is the only one of us with a decent income and a health plan and we wonder every day how much longer her newspaper job will last

I take it there's no gothamist/sfist equivalent for major Colorado cities yet?

I believe newspapers could work, because I am tired of looking at a computer screen, and television has too much motion. I think newspapers are failing because they use incompetent writers who are unable to explain anything in plain words that makes any sense.

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This page contains a single entry by hb published on February 27, 2009 7:35 AM.

Another Bar Bites the Dust, and Happy Early St. Patrick's Day was the previous entry in this blog.

Conversations with My Wife: More Mores Edition is the next entry in this blog.

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