Thursday, April 03, 2008

March 30, 2008

Dear Sis~
I read an interesting essay in the March 31st issue of The New Yorker regarding the general decline and demise of the newspaper industry, whose old-school business model cannot compete with the Internet, combined with CraigsList (which offers free classified advertising, while paid classified advertising is the bread-and-butter economic foundation of the conventional newspaper business model). It's a little more complicated than simple economics, but the severe decline is indisputable and possibly irreversible. It's sad to see the old-fashioned ink-and-paper newspapers go the way of the dinosaur, but it's a lesson in economic evolution: those who cannot change and adapt will perish. Mostly the essay is focused on the Internet, and the rise of blogging. But getting back to physical newspapers like say, The Miami Herald, it occurs to me that one way to keep such a newspaper alive (with fully staffed editorial and investigative departments, unlike the skeleton staffs the papers are now resorting to, like cannibalizing their young) would be to transform it into a non-profit public trust. Once the pure profit motive disappears the paper would be free to concentrate on delivering the best quality news possible. I believe there is a Florida newspaper that already does something like that, maybe it's The St. Petersburg Times, if memory serves me correct. That may be the wave of the future. But, only those cities blessed with some wealthy patron(s) will then have newspapers. It would take a serious knot of cash to buy the paper, then place enough money into an investment trust which would then generate enough income to pay the considerable annual overhead of running the paper. That kind of money could come from a single wealthy person, or maybe a small consortium, which then begs the question of bias by the donor, whether the newspaper will be reasonably objective or just be a tool to promote his particular views. Can you imagine the only newspaper in a major city, say The Chicago Tribune, owned and operated by Rush Limbaugh? Another possibility would be to appeal to the general public, sell millions of "shares" to civic-minded citizens, much the same way the Green Bay Packers team is owned not by your typical wealthy NFL owner, but instead is owned by the citizens of Green Bay, Wisconsin (a business model unique in the NFL). Of course, I cannot simply go online...I instead relish my evening ritual of receiving my daily USA Today at mail call and devouring every article and story. It will be a very sad day when the last major city paper-and-ink newspaper is published...
Ok, enough rambling from me!
Light and Love, Bill