This time from Matthew Yglesias who writes that:
People should also recall that a catastrophic collapse of the newspaper industry would hardly be without precedent. The real heyday of American newspapering came in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the United States features a literate population and no broadcast media. The rise of radio and television had a devastating impact on the industry and caused massive shrinkage in the volume of papers. This shrinkage then led to what journalists consider the heyday of Americanjournalism when the industry had fallen so far that most papers faced little-to-no competition and could serve as authoritative “objective” sources of information. We’re now once again amidst and era in which technological change is going to kill off a lot of existing business models. But all this has happened before, and all this will happen again.
While the simple fact that a decline has precedent doesn’t mean that we should disregard the current decline in print journalism it is nonetheless important when we read doom and gloom articles about the current state of the newspaper industry. The idea that Yglesias brings up in his post (i.e. that money ought to be invested in non-profit media institutions) is a good one, and hopefully one that philanthropists like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates will listen to.
Ultimately I see the eventual decline of print journalism as inevitable. Over the past decades society as a whole has simply moved toward more image-based and more fragmented modes of consuming information. This can be seen with the rapid growth of the television and then the internet. Both of these mediums encourage people to digest news in short blurbs and bursts and do not require the time that reading newspaper articles does. Overall, I think that a vast percentage of society has been conditioned to not have the attention span needed for reading through the New York Times or the Atlantic Monthly. It’s too bad, but I fear it’s true.