which is a very good thing. somewhat because he enunciates whats happening in the newspaper business today way better than lots of people. and shows the outsiders that whats happening at papers like the LAT is almost exactly whats happening everywhere else. one part exciting, two parts terrifying. and a hundred parts sad.
Let’s not bury the lead: This is a rough time for the newspaper business, a rough time for The Washington Post and a rough time for me.
No one need shed any tears for the people leaving this building. The more than 100 journalists who have just taken early-retirement packages are voluntarily accepting a generous offer as the company trims its payroll — a situation far better than at newspapers that have resorted to layoffs.
But it is painful to watch from the inside. The talented reporters, editors and photographers walking out the door are part of the heart and soul of a living, breathing organism. How do you replace a Tom Ricks, one of the best Pentagon reporters ever? Or a Sue Schmidt, the investigative reporter who revealed Jack Abramoff’s dirty dealings? Or Robin Wright, who’s covered the Middle East for a quarter-century? What about battle-scarred editors with deep knowledge and a light touch?
I know, I know. The future is digital. The Web is a cornucopia of fast-moving video and blogs and bulletins and gossip, while newspapers are old, slow and less than hip. That’s why The Post (and every other paper on the planet) is beefing up its online presence and why I write a daily blog for the Web site.
But — and stop me if you’ve heard this one — newspapers matter. There isn’t a Web site around that can produce the probing work, such as the exposé of shoddy conditions at the Army’s Walter Reed Medical Center, that won The Post six Pulitzer Prizes this year. The economics of the Web, for now, won’t support a staff that can hold public officials accountable across the region and still cover every Nationals game. So I cling to an old-fashioned, almost mystical belief in the power of ink on paper.
its nice to know that im not alone in being hopelessly idealistic.
jumping ahead to the end of his piece, kurtz says:
In one sense, the Web is a blessing. Daily circulation for the newsprint Post, now 673,000, may be down from 813,000 in 2000, but we are drawing an eye-opening 9.4 million unique visitors online each month, 85 percent of them from outside the D.C. circulation area. Those readers don’t bring in the cash that print subscribers do — given the gotta-be-free mentality of the Web — but they do expand our reach.
The ticking time bomb here is the wholesale abandonment of newspapers by younger people who grew up with a point-and-click mentality. When I was speaking at Harvard recently, a smug graduate student said, “I get everything I need from YouTube. What are you going to do about it?”
“What are you going to do about it?” I shot back. If people want to tune out the news, no one can compel them to change their habits. We can be smarter, faster and jazzier in providing information, but we can’t force-feed the stuff. If newspapers wither and die, it will be in part because the next generation blew us off in favor of Xbox and Wii and full-length movies on their iPods. Network news faces the same erosion. Maybe, in the end, we get the media we deserve.
The Post has proven to be an awfully resilient place over the years. And if we have to do more with less, well, welcome to the global economy. After pondering the offer, I decided: I’ll badly miss the people who are leaving, but I’m staying put.
in lots of ways what i have seen in my first six months at the LAT is a lot like what i saw in my last six months at the dot com when the web imploded. many goodbyes. many mixed feelings from those who left and those who stayed. thats why im grateful to read kurtz explain what his feelings are in regards to his paper on the other coast. its a far more complicated situation than it might appear. and its so very interesting that writers are at the center of it, because who better to report on it.
if these things interest you, you should read his whole piece/column/post whatever they call it these days.
photos by afagen via flickr