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Old 2020-06-30, 12:34   #168
Dr Sardonicus
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Feb 2017

32·5·7·11 Posts

WRT the disintegration of the newspaper business, it's been underway for decades.

IMO an early contributing factor was the advent of the "24-hour news cycle," as exemplified by CNN. By the time tomorrow morning's paper landed at your doorstep, the headlines were "old news."

As I understand it, printed newspapers traditionally relied on advertising. Circulation (subscriptions and sales through news stands, retail stores, "newsboys," etc) indicated eyeballs on the pages, but it was ads that paid the bills.

So when circulation started dropping due to the increasing popularity of more immediate news coverage, the whole "business model" of printed newspapers began to fail.

I will mention a newspaper I became familiar with, Chicago Today. It was an afternoon paper, successor to the deceased Chicago American, which had been sold on the street as an afternoon paper. Unlike the American, Chicago Today was printed in tabloid format. It was popular with commuters returning home from work. It had a circulation of over 100,000, but it died because local businesses declined to advertise in it.

Looking on line, I have found various dates for its demise. So far the latest year I have found is 1985. But I know for a fact that Chicago Today was still publishing in early 1986. The reason I know this is as follows: On January 26, 1986, I watched the Super Bowl with my father, who was living in the greater Chicago metro area. I made and baked a pizza for the occasion. On Tuesday, January 28, 1986, I was in downtown Chicago. I saw small amounts of confetti and similar material the street sweepers had missed when cleaning up after the parade for the victorious Chicago Bears. On my way back out to my folks' place, I rode a commuter train. I saw abandoned copies of Chicago Today with the headline

Space Shuttle Explodes

That is how I first learned about the Challenger disaster. The fact that commuters often bought the paper, then read and abandoned it on the train, was the basic reason businesses declined to place ads in it.

This trend accelerated with the advent of the World Wide Web. So the entire "business model" for printed newspapers became obsolete, and there was no effective replacement.

At the same time, I believe that news reporting in all forms was being undermined in a more fundamental way: people were becoming less interested in the news. Perhaps they simply had less time than people used to have. Instead of spending 45 minutes reading detailed coverage of current happenings, they would make do with 3-minute summary on TV or online. Faced with that reality, what is a newspaper to do? One thing is, determine what kinds of news people are least interested in, and cut in those areas. People aren't interested in news from abroad? Time to close the Foreign Bureau. And so on.

And now the Post-Factual Age has arrived. The notion of "critical thinking" isn't even on a lot of folks' radar any more. Many, many people are perfectly willing to accept without question the most unmitigated bull they get via social media. More than willing, in fact. The bull becomes dogma. Anyone telling them different is The Enemy.
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