End of Printed Newspapers as We Know It?

I just read the latest Time Magazine stories about how to save our nation’s newspapers. The pieces are by well respected journalists, Walter Isaacson and Josh Quittner. Isaacson says we need to charge for online news and Quittner supports the move to hand-held gadgets to read your newspaper.

Quittner rightly says that most people are not going to pay for news on their own PCs, not when most newspapers were dumb enough to give it away either in the beginning, or later as they attempted to drive readers and advertisers to their web pages.

Now that that model is running aground as well, the newspaper industry finds itself sinking in this dreadful economy. The days of strip mining a community in advertising dollars seems to be over for newspapers. Their heyday has come and gone, so it seems.

For me, the large chains have only to look into the mirror to find the reason for the 28,000 jobs lost in journalism in 2008.

Reasons: lack of foresight; greed; inexcusable behavior toward talented, loyal journalists; heavy-handed employment practices; violation of labor standards; bottom line approach to jobs and people; profits before people; boardroom excesses in which CEOs think they deserve millions in bonuses for cutting jobs in the newsrooms; incompetence in top management.

I could go on, but let me just say that gadgets that popup a newspaper won’t cut it. If publishers and news chains are dumb enough to get rid of the printed product, they are finished.

I believe some combination of the two will have to be jiggered for the salvation of newspapers and news magazines. Something on the order of a combination of printed stories and stories on news gadgets that you can’t get in the printed version. You can charge for both, but if the print model is done, so is the print industry for both newspapers and newsmagazines.

My view comes from 45 years as a working journalist and as a veteran newspaper reporter who loves the industry still after devoting more than half of his life to the industry.


About tennwriter

FRED BROWN is a retired Senior Writer for The Knoxville News-Sentinel. He has been a journalist for 45 years and is a member of the Scripps Howard Hall of Fame. He is a recipient of the Malcolm Law Trophy for Feature Writing and in 1983 he was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in Journalism to study at the University of Michigan. He has published both fiction and nonfiction. Brown has a B. A. Degree in English Literature from Presbyterian College. Other highlights of his career include: Books and Stories Authored: Marking Time: East Tennessee Historical Markers and the Stories Behind Them, published by The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tenn. 2005. Discovering October Roads: Fall Colors and Geology in Rural East Tennessee, published by The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tenn., 2001. Co-authored with Harry Moore. The Serpent Handlers: Three Families and Their Faith, published by John F. Blair Publishers, Winston-Salem, N.C., May, 2000. Co-authored with his wife, Jeanne McDonald. Growing Up Southern: How the South Shapes Writers, published by Emerald House/Blue Ridge Publishing, Fall, 1997. Co-authored with his wife, Jeanne McDonald "We Can Eat Sparrows," New Millennium Writings, Vol. 1, Issue 2, Fall & Winter, 1996. "The Devil's Roost," Voices From the Valley, Knoxville Writer's Guild anthology, 1994. Snake-Handling Believers, 2 chapters in book by Dr. Thomas Burton, University of Tennessee Press, 1993. History of Commission on Religion in Appalachia, 1992-93. "Seniors: Telling Tales to Life's Upperclassmen," Storytelling Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 4, fall 1992. Coker Creek, Crossroads to History, history of a mountain community and its people near Tennessee-Georgia border, 1991. "Character Building," Storytelling Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 4, fall 1991. The Faces of East Tennessee, a history of East Tennessee Counties, 1990. "Tillman Cadle, Memories of the Coalfields," Now and Then, The Appalachian Magazine, Center for Appalachian Studies, East Tennessee State University, Vol. 7, No. 7, fall 1990. Trader Jon, a biography; Castle Books, Memphis, 1986. "Mining Reform," Sierra, Vol. 71, No. 5, September/October 1986.
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