Newspapers Dying are not a Tragedy

Bryan Larrick, commenting on dying industries:

It’s #2 on the list, newspaper publishing, that is a real downer. As I’ve written on this site before, newspapers are more important than their profitability. They don’t just move information from point A to point B. Newspapers are content generators, that put a lot of time and resources into getting the stories they publish right. Without newspapers, the idea of accountable government or business would be laughable. At their best, newspapers shine a light into the darkness. But with the coming of the internet, their profit model has been severely damaged, reducing the amount of resources they can commit to reporting. Former venerable institutions like the Philadelphia Inquirer and Los Angeles Times are being eclipsed by pseudo-journalistic sites like HuffingtonPost.com, which does little original reporting. The downfall of newspaper publishing is not something to shrug one’s shoulders at, like with Blockbuster falling apart. It is a genuine tragedy.

While this is true in principle, I don’t think that the industry itself of “The News” will die. Many other organizations and mediums have solved the goal of objectively reporting what happened – newspapers are merely a form of The News.

Newspapers failed by thinking that the medium they publish on is what made them great. They forgot why people hired newspapers in the first place.

The News, or the process of objectively report in what happened in the world, is a commodity. What we will see over the coming years is a consolidation of newspapers, which is fine. A single organization like the Associated Press is able to objectively report what happened in a much more scalable, re-usable manner.

What will change is the people commenting on what happened, and we don’t need newspapers to filter that for us. In tech, writers like John Gruber and Jim Dalrymple grew huge followings, not because an organization bestowed upon them the right to have an opinion, but simply because they put out quality content for years on end.

So no, newspapers dying is not a terrible tragedy. We must separate the medium and the job it is serving. The job of The News is not dying any time soon.

April 23, 2012