A business in transition: Must newspapers face extinction?

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MY HOUSE — I come from a family of journalists.  And I think that’s a great thing.

Naturally curious.  Opinionated.  Excellent at explaining complex things.  Able to bring the world the news it needs.

My grand-uncle help set up the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  My dad won awards for his work as a foreign correspondent.  There’s a story that one of my rellies loaned a dis-credited Lord some cash to buy his first newspaper.  But I’m not sure that’s true.

When I was a boy we were surrounded by mighty upright typewriters, coffee and politicians.  We were taught to ask about what UNESCO did, who Marshall Tito was, and what the heck the Marshall Plan was all about.

I loved it.

Today I still have great friends in the Fourth Estate and I will walk the extra 100 yards to see all the morning’s paper laid out, like a row of fresh painting each morning in my struggling newsagent’s shop.  Each screaming something slightly different.

This city I live in feels like home, in part, because we are sunk, knee-deep in the tradition of the daily written word.

A great thing too.

So the troubles of News International ought to be more troubling to me than they are.

But they’re not.  I love newspapers for the things they teach me that I don’t know.  In my world newspapers cover news.  They don’t create it.

The whole issue with newspapers and journalists today is a sorry, sad state of affairs. No one can come out of it smelling good in any way.

Today’s ridiculous stack of Sunday papers in the UK show only bitterness and cynicism.  The tabloids have nothing on the troubles at News Corporation on their front pages.  And we think it’s something about casting the first stone…

And the few broadsheets are covering the Murdochs with way too much glee …

The problem is that we have got to the point in London that there are not many papers that are worth reading.  The Sunday Times today… while carrying a full-page ad apologising… carries two cover stories attacking News International’s enemies (an ex-PM and the entire London Police Force).

It’s just not right.  Newspapers are conduits of information.  We risk losing more in the UK and I put it down to proprietors who have forgotten what business they are in and journalists who have become too cynical to ask.

We’re used to seeing industries in transition.  This one is in for a big one.

I worry that it’s more likely to move towards extinction than improvement.


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