One of the side effects of the current economic woes has been the hastening of the death knells of many major American newspapers.
Denver’s Rocky Mountain News and Seattle’s Post-Intelligencer have either ceased to publish or scaled back to a few days a week. The New York Times is on life support, and the Los Angeles Times is languishing on the transplant waiting list.
In Canada, the National Post and the rest of CanWest is in serious financial straits and may go belly up inside of 12 months.
The Sun-Times Media Group, owner of the Chicago Sun-Times and dozens of suburban newspapers, has filed for bankruptcy.
Hardcore financial troubles are rampant in the newspaper industry, and the near future doesn’t look anything but grim for dozens of big city newspapers across North America.
All across North America, citizens are reading newspapers less and less frequently, resulting in shrinking ad and subscription revenues.
Now, in many quarters, such as amongst conservative bloggers, the decline of the newspaper industry has been seen as a good thing.
This also holds true for the serious financial problems facing the electronic news media.
Personally, I don’t share this enthusiasm, even though I can’t help but agree with many observers that a big chunk of this pain is self inflicted.
We’ve been over this path before, but it’s vital that the media industry gain a firm understanding of how its pervasive left-wing bias has been one of the strongest forces in driving away paying customers.
Now, it would be grossly unfair to include this paper in that category.
This space provides counterbalance to some of the more liberal staff writers of this paper.
At the same time, I can attest to the fact that at least one or two of my editors share a few of my less “radical” Jeffersonian sentiments.
In fact, among smaller dailies such as this one, there is little evidence that editorializing of news articles is widespread or eroding the customer base.
The larger problem, which unfortunately has a detrimental effect on all newspapers, is that large-market papers that provide the bulk of news wire content cannot seem to stop the habit of destroying their own credibility, and thus their market base by blatantly editorializing hard news articles.
Interestingly, the fastest growing electronic media outlet in the United States is Fox News, which is widely derided as being right wing, which it most definitely isn’t.
I’ll be brief, but an independent media study over the last year, using double blind interpretation of all media coverage of the U.S. election, found that Fox News was the least biased coverage, with all the rest of the large media outlets tilting in varying degrees towards strong favouritism of the Democratic Party candidates.
In all fairness, I have to point out that the National Post is nominally (and admittedly) conservative.
Meanwhile, in Canada and the U.S., conservative political blogs vastly outshine their more liberal counterparts in both readership and the freedom of their readership to wade into the comments sections.
Left-wing blogs are notorious for editing the comments and deleting dissenting opinion.
On the radio, Rush Limbaugh is a tour de force of political commentary.
In the States, conservative talk radio generates listeners, attracts advertisers, and makes money.
In the same period that Barack Obama ascended to the White House, the liberal talk radio flagship Air America crashed and burned up some $20 million of investors’ cash.
In Canada, the only financially viable talk radio is strongly conservative. There are literally no liberal voices beyond the CBC that are heard nationwide, simply because there’s no audience there.
Even on a good day, the entire national CBC Radio audience would barely support a private, single market radio station.
This is all just preamble to my main point, that being the partially self-inflicted death of many daily newspapers.
I’ve picked up and read a newspaper almost every day since I was eight or nine years old. (I know. Geek. Way ahead of ya.)
Frankly, I don’t think there are many better things you can teach your kids than to sit down and read the paper on a regular basis.
You can’t hold up the computer screen and cast your eyes across it and let key words from various articles catch your attention like you can a paper.
The Internet is a wonderful source of information, and among today’s media, a valuable counterpoint to media bias.
But the Internet lacks the tactile pleasance of a real paper.
Some observers are cheerleading the decline of the daily paper, but I’m not one of them.
Bill Greenwood is a local freelance columnist.