Neuron Culture

Sullivan on death of newspapers

Forgive if I’m obsessed with this death-of-journalism thing — Andrew Sullivan has a nice piece in the Times of London about dying newspapers. Like Surowiecki, he fears the loss of the deep reporting that newspapers are already doing less of, and for which so far we have no real replacement venue.

Stunning stat from the story: The Baltimore Sun, a pretty big and renowned paper (and the basis for The Wire) gets about 17.5 million page views a month. Sullivan’s blog at Atlantic gets 23 million:

The operation largely run out of my spare room reached many more online readers than some of the biggest and most loss-making papers in the country. The economics are remorseless: as news goes online, the economic model for papers cannot survive. If advertising follows page views, the game will shortly be over.

The terrifying problem is that a one-man blog cannot begin to do the necessary labour-intensive, skilled reporting that a good newspaper sponsors and pioneers. A world in which reporting becomes even more minimal and opinion gets even more vacuous and unending is not a healthy one for a democracy. Perhaps private philanthropists will step in and finance not-for-profit journalistic centres, where investigative and foreign reporting can be invested in and disseminated by blogs and online sites. Maybe reporter-bloggers will start rivalling opinion-mongers such as me and give the whole enterprise some substance. Maybe papers can slim down sufficiently to produce a luxury print issue and a viable online product. There’s always a hunger for news, after all.

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