- About Us
Media needs to evolve to flourish
By Katherine Smith
Covington-Maple Valley Reporter
What will become of us? That’s the multi-million-dollar question, isn’t it?
We recently got word of three more sales – The Boston Globe, Newsweek, and The Washington Post.
The Globe is notable for its diminished value, what the New York Times Co. bought for $1.1 billion they sold for a tiny fraction at a mere $70 million.
Jeff Bezos, of Amazon.com, bought the Post for $250 million, also undoubtedly less than the paper would have fetched a decade ago. Does anyone even remember Newsweek?
There is the still-looming question of what will happen to the Tribune Co. papers, namely the Chicago Tribune and LA Times. Speculation has swirled for years about their sale, which was stirred up again this year when Tribune Co. emerged from bankruptcy.
The two main theories involve selling – although who would buy? – or spinning the papers off into a separate company which is ironic as the paper division was once the flagship of the company.
And then there is the experiment that is the Orange County Register, where two middle-age owners have poured money into the place and adding pages, sections and entire publications, not to mention adding to the newsroom staff. It’s the classic “if we build it they will come” tactic. Time will only tell if that approach will work.
It’s not all bad news; there are papers out there that are still profitable, albeit at smaller margins than they used to be. The smaller community journalism papers have been known to be in the black. It happens.
With a sale comes the inevitable question which have plagued journalism professionals for the past decade: what will become of us?
Collectively, however, the business model for journalism is broken. It has been limping along, wounded by a circulation scandal in the mid-2000s, the implosion of advertising revenue thanks to the Internet and the bursting of the housing bubble – the latter of which was accelerated by economic collapse of 2008. Historically, advertising has carried the industry – the newsstand and subscription prices have never been enough to support the production costs – which worked fantastically when it was the main vehicle for reaching consumers. But we’ve all seen how that came crashing down.
This has led may to believe that journalism is dying. A sad state of affairs that would be. As long as we live in a republic, we need the fourth estate. We need passionate, committed people who are willing to search for the truth, have the knowledge, and put in the time to inform citizens. We need people who are willing to serve as the watchdog.
To survive, to flourish, we need to try new things. We need to be unafraid of trying. What other option do we have? Journalism isn’t dying, but it is evolving. Will our society value our work enough to come along for the ride?
No one yet knows what Bezos’ strategy with The Post will entail in practice, but in his letter to the staff he emphasizes innovation and experimenting. Perhaps that means he will be willing to try something new, and not re-hash what other owners have tried to no avail. But he’s willing to try, so I have to give him props for that.
Contact Covington Reporter staff writer Katherine Smith at email@example.com or 425-432-1209 ext. 5052.