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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Newspapers in Trouble 

Michael Massing, in "The End of News?" (New York Review of Books), explains some of the problems faced by newspapers. Among other things, the owners keep demanding cutbacks and layoffs because they're not making enough money:

It is a striking paradox, however, that newspapers, for all their problems, remain huge moneymakers. In 2004, the industry's average profit margin was 20.5 percent. Some papers routinely earn in excess of 30 percent. By comparison, the average profit margin for the Fortune 500 in 2004 was about 6 percent. If the Los Angeles Times were allowed to operate at a 10 to 15 percent margin, John Carroll told me earlier this year, "it would be a juggernaut."
So newspapers are being destroyed not because they're losing money but because the owners demand extraordinary profits. It makes me think of the scene in Citizen Kane where Orson Welles says he'll go on losing a million dollars every year, and at that rate ... "I'll have to close this place - in sixty years!"[humourous muted tombone effect]. But he was actually interested in running a newspaper. A sort of gifted amateur, so to speak.

Elsewhere in the essay Massing talks about people cancelling their subscriptions merely because they're annoyed by something they've read in their paper. That seems a bit odd, given that the papers in question are big national papers. He seems to be suggesting that if people don't hear what they want to hear in the news they'll tune out. Or maybe they already have all the infomation they need.

So did you see Barbara Walters' 10 Most Fascinating People last night? Wow.


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Watching TV is a good way to tear yourself away from the computer.