The Future of Newspapers

American newspapers are in dire financial straits. How are newspapers faring where you are? Are you concerned about the future of journalism in America or in your own country? What does that future look like?

Posted by David Ignatius on May 22, 2009 11:30 AM

Readers’ Responses to Our Question (28)

yeolds Author Profile Page :

Questions on economic reality - as opposed to non-issues, such as the present topic, are not welcome since they imping on the fairy-tale of green shoots, political power's requisite of monetary power, etc.

Such blather that the USA can afford 3 wars [Iraq, Afganistan and Somalia, the last via proxy], 800 odd forward military bases, foreign aid, trillion dollar defence [and related, eg. nuclear bombs, etc] budget, off shore tax havens, mark to dreamlike values as per accounting rules, evading stepping on health insurance industry, inability to do anything about N,Korea, etc can not be part of the discussion, for the outcome would contradict the ideas of the oligarchy [moneyed elite, K-Street, AIPAC, etc].

Were in the last 20 years half as much attention devoted to availability of first class curriculum to all students within the 50 States and numerous territories as was devoted to same sex marrigae, gay rights the USA would not be in the financial mess it is ENJOYING AT PRESENT, for the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE would have been EDUCATED, as opposed to schooled in more and more specialized sub-areas of human knowledge [eg. math without philosophy, without history, without knowledge of foreign lenguages, withour knowledge of other cultures etc]. Read recently that:

Here’s a staggering statistic: According to the Education Trust, the U.S. is the only industrialized country in which young people are less likely than their parents to graduate from high school. Bob Herbert - New York Times

AND some think that the USA can maintain its pre-eminent position in the world: Essentially bankrupt with third rate education in international comparisons, DREAM!!!

TomW2 Author Profile Page :


Yes, but there are plenty of topics out there. Israeli settlements and Obama opposition to the settlements, Obama speech in Cairo, Pakistan, Sri Lanka...plenty of topics.

Citizenofthepost-Americanworld Author Profile Page :

We now have Pomfret's "A Changing Chinese Tune on North Korea?" It was preceded by his "Why China Won't Do More With North Korea"...

blund Author Profile Page :

Anybody else think a question about North Korea/South Korea might be appropriate?

blund Author Profile Page :

It works. It's just the question isn't very good.

daniel12 Author Profile Page :

Testing 123 testing 123

daniel12 Author Profile Page :

To Citizen of the post American world from Daniel. You asked if a sentence in the piece I posted was from Orwell, and you said you know it was not from Russell...I have no idea where it came from. I read so much and have no idea how or to what extent things I read mingle with my native intelligence. I can tell you something of my writing philosophy though. I write not caring at all about providing sources for what I write, etc. I find it is much better to risk being accused of plagiarism than not create at all--for I believe all too much of the methodology taught in school crushes creative thought. In school the teacher says proceed this way and that. And one is left wasting so much time to advance a tiny little thought--if one is encouraged to do such at all. My method is to read heavily and just try to synthesize as much as possible--and certainly to go for the insightful and creative view. What I especially despise which is the trend in school is the constant necessity to remember which thought goes with which writer, so at the end of the day one's mind is filled with a fragment from here, a fragment from there--and the mind labors heavily, caught up in remembering and analyzing and with no power of thrust in original direction. I simply read and write as a musician learns and composes. The musician is not expected to remember what music fragment came from here and which there. The musician just composes. And if he has plagiarized people let him know. But they do not put the brakes on him beforehand as teachers do with aspiring writers and thinkers. To conclude: if I have plagiarized so be it--and consider the piece of writing which is a plagiarism null and void (so far as being attributed to me). In fact, and this may startle writers and thinkers, consider all I have written not my possession, as not having come from my brain, and consider it anonymous, in the public domain, able to be used by anyone--even if somone makes money on it. What I care about is the creative thought. Furthermore I believe society needs that more than anything else. So I write and think to the best of my ability. And I send it out...And my notebooks I will one day just give to someone--give to some college professor or something. I have no idea. I just know I love to think and write and always have that at the forefront of my mind. Hope that clarifies things for you.

egilsondagama Author Profile Page :

I don't think that we're about to face newspapers going downhill. It's all a matter of working hard and with honesty. People still like to read when they find that there's truth about what is being written. That's what happens most of times here in my country, Brazil.

Prof. Egilson Da Gama

bizarrojack Author Profile Page :

You'll have to forgive me for not being particularly tenacious in this pursuit, but I don't even know HOW to pay for the Washington Post without some teenager throwing a pile of dirty newsprint onto my porch every morning. Could I just have him deliver it directly to the recycling bin? I want news, not a newspaper.

As it happens, I already get it for free. I'm certainly not complaining, but I'm starting to feel guilty. Maybe you should put up an online tip jar.

cathyjs Author Profile Page :

The reason the papers are suffering is quite obvious-they spent the better part of eight years knocking every step of the last administration, the last presidential campaign pushing their candidate obama, and the last several months praising their chosen leader all the while failing to see that it's the working man who spends money on newspapers. Maybe your obama can mandate that each American buy a paper every day, maybe he'll give the papers a bailout or the citizens a tax credit. He's done it for most other industries.

prashant_k Author Profile Page :

I live in Bethesda and walk to the metro every morning. I estimate there are about 150 copies of the express in each bright yellow bin, times the 4 or 5 bins that are there, none of the other major free papers are going away either. The paper pushers are still out in force.

You see the news about the dire financial problems newspaper companies are having, but if you look deeper very few are going away. They are consolidating, fewer articles, fewer pages, but the content is still reaching the readers. They are losing money, but they won't exit the market because the market for putting information (and ads) right in peoples hands will never go away.

A correction in the newspaper industry is happening because costs are to high. I read an article recently about the newsweek relaunch and they stated that they are doing fewer articles but the market for a national advertising platform will always be in demand.

And that is the real business here, what kind of advertising platform are you providing. Modern Journalism will continue to rely on advertisements. And that's where Mr. Miklos Vamos has it right, the quality of the overall paper will attract readers. It is up to the newspaper to provide advertisers with a high quality readership. If that cost is too high, so be it. Get out of the market and let the little fish bottom feed.

lapagano Author Profile Page :

As the news print media becomes aligned with political parties the average American feels that the press is no longer an unbiased reporter of events but a vested partner in agendas of the right or left.

blund Author Profile Page :

Print news media is in a steep decline simply because subscriptions are falling like a rock. With falling subscriptions advertising revenue decreases as well. Less revenue leads to cutbacks and in severe cases bankruptcy.

The economic model almost reminds me of GM, Ford & Chrysler. Print media not that long ago had a limited competitive monopoly. The erosion of this monopoly in print media is a direct result of 24/7 cable news and the internet as opposed to foreign competition. The trends however have almost mirrored each other. The print media industry, like the auto industry, has been watching it's numbers and revenue steadily erode over the years and doesn't have a clue as to how to reverse this trend. This could be because it can't be reversed in the print media industry and school is still out whether Detroit will be able to reverse their fortunes.

From both of these industries I have heard the sky will fall arguments if they go under. Don't believe it. Whether another paper folds up or they all fold up we will still have a free press in this country which we can access 24/7. Whether the big three fold in Detroit we will still have a plethora of auto choices to buy.

I'm not trying to sound cold over this issue as I hate to see the losses of jobs that takes place when an industry has cancer and is on life support. However, the economic realities of life drive what will happen. I feel really bad for the print media industry, but not bad enough to bail them out. The model they exist under today simply doesn't make economic sense. Look at the Post. How many reduction of personnel have they gone through in the last few years alone? They just finised shrinking the size of the paper as a cost saving tool. How much longer will it be before they go to just printing the Sunday edition (lots of advertising dollars)?

Patriot3438 Author Profile Page :

The mainstream media is far too focused on opinions given by "opinion leaders" giving rise to views rather than news. Much of these views are based on baseless prejudice, which has bred mistrust by the readers. Furthermore, many of the reporters who claim to be experts report news through biased narrowed angled lenses, based on arrogant ignorance. Many in the mainstream media gave tacit support to the policies of George Bush before they received universal condemnation abroad. No amount of denial can relieve the mainstream media of its responsibility in propagating many of the extreme views held by right wing radicals within the GOP. While the media was lecturing others about human rights and democracy, and how to run their economy and financial system, the house of cards that George Bush built with the help of the media has crumbled. We are now in the deepest economic crisis this country has ever seen, got trapped in 2 expensive lost wars, tainted by widespread torture and corruption, crumbled infrastructure in schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, and enormous budget deficits which will be burden our country for many generations to come, and worse still, with no end of bad news in sight. No surprise the mainstream media are losing readers. Don't blame technology. It is the content.

dr_vaman Author Profile Page :

News Media in the US have become inept and biased. CNN, New York Times often show Americans are useless. Fox News shows so much of conservatism. If you listen to Fox and CNN on the same issue, you get two biased opinions. Most news paper journalists have become totally uneducated and there is clear lack of understanding of the world. This is the basic cause of news media demise.

NDmiddle Author Profile Page :

The reason American newspapers are in dire straights has mostly to do with consolidation.

Over half the people who read newspapers in America are reading a POV from 10 publishersth, wi 80% getting their news from about double that number. It's like turning on cable and seeing the same talking heads giving the same sound bites--it's not great news. Between fewer newspapers and few publishers, Americans are getting the short end of the information stick from papers.


Funny money buying up newspapers at outrageous sums has turned stable (debt-free) local papers in to bad investments with a high debt load. Not only was too much paid for papers, changes in advertising due to new media have cut into revenues. Hence, the dire straights.

More Trouble

The corporate craziness that contributed to the buying up of the papers, is the same corporate craziness that has put most of America's savings into the gambling hall that is now Wall Street. Investing in fraudulent derivatives and no accountability resulted in the collapse of our economy has made it doubly tough on papers.


Break up Wall Street, create local investment opportunities. Break up the corporations and tax them and CEO's at the rates we had in the 1960's. Greed and the corporate race to bootom is destroying our country. Start taxing corporations, and bring the jobs back home. Start taxing the wealthy and rebuild America. And, finally, break up the media. We are not being served.

Citizenofthepost-Americanworld Author Profile Page :

"Certainly we should hope we do not have to torture man too much to get him to become responsible."

Daniel, is that from George Orwell? I do know it's not from Bertrand Russell.

On Memorial Day, your sentence reminds me of Vietnam, somehow. Was it Ben Tre? To paraphrase:

"Certainly we should hope we do not have to destroy too many villages in order to save them."

daniel12 Author Profile Page :

I used to look over four newspapers, only one of which I still read and this one I still read was the only one of the four I read in depth. I mean the Washington Post. The other three were the New York Times;the Wall Street Journal; and the Washington Times.

Going by the Washington Post I find that since Obama took office the post has gotten more bland, liberal, not only not really deviating from the liberal view but pretending there is no other view by insidiously not mentioning anything else.

George Will and Krauthammer still exist in the Post to present the conservative view, but I find the Post not really willing to present a diversity of views--as it did somewhat during the Bush years. It seems the post has just decided to go flat as if falling back into the sterility of the Clinton years.

In general I find newspapers not really willing to address the problem that has really existed since newspapers were born: the problem of being yesterday's news. I have always thought the newspaper must be accurate as to stories by reporters, yes, but that it should also try to anticipate the future--to try to be tomorrow's news. We all have heard of the fantasy of a man waking up one day, getting his newspaper and finding out it is dated the next day. The man of course tries to make a fortune from what this future newspaper provides in information.

I think the newspaper should try to be such a newspaper as that. It should not fear speculating.
As an example of an article in such a newspaper I present a small essay written below.

On the probability of the refinement and spread of torture in the modern age.

We all know the old story. We all have heard of the foundation and promise of a truly wonderful age within Western civilization. We all have heard of the Greeks and Romans, the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. We all know that superstition and even religion has given way to methods by which we can potentially eradicate disease, master the environment by technical advancement and promise to everyone a life of liberty and love as if we no longer need to die or even be especially good to receive what in Western civilization religion--Christianity--is known as heaven.

But then the rude awakening. First it was the question of how harmful science is to religion. What meaning life without God will have. This development alone was enough to make us ask if for all the promises of science and technological advancement ahead of us we might be headed toward hell rather than heaven. Even with the continued progress of science and technology and the putting at bay the feeling we might be hubristic according to religion, we have at least had to endure a setting upon us of great responsibility, the realization that our lives are existential, that no God can help us and we are on our own. This was enough to make us wary--wary of everything and not just our fellow citizen.

Then things became more and more difficult. Among them, significantly, we have man trying to stay abreast of technological advancement, to not be left without a job, or even be rendered obsolete due to some invention or development. Then we have weaponry leaping ahead in power of destruction (the atomic bomb the undeniable realization of that) and the population explosion, big politics dealing with the increasing and evermore demanding masses. Then came fears that man will destroy the natural world around him (environmental problems) and fears that the increasing refinement and spread of technology of communications will lead to a society of total surveillance. No need to state that this is enough to describe where we are now. And disturbingly, all these developments ensure that the concept known as historical determinism--that we are swept by forces beyond our control--stays at the forefront of our consciousness no matter how we try to emphasize the opposite, free will.

Probably the greatest sign so far of man caught in a battle of free will versus determinism came in WW2 when all attempts of man to remain peaceful not only came to naught, WMD came on the scene to possibly forever put the concept of free will into question. And things have only gotten worse. Types of WMD have arisen (biological, nuclear, chemical), proliferation of such has been occurring, and the phenomenon of asymmetrical warfare has truly come into existence. Even without WMD and the proliferation of such and asymmetrical warfare, we would have man increasingly without God, environmental problems, and communications technology threatening the possibility of a life of total surveillance--and the latter is increasingly becoming augmented by the science of genetics, which is to say it seems all too soon enough we will be able to say to a great degree what a person is likely to be like and even what he is likely to become simply by running tests on the baby after--or even before--birth. Talk about a circumscription of life.

And the truly troubling thing about all these problems is that if one happens to be an American--and I am one--one cannot help but see these problems are being reduced to starkly political terms, as if one can overcome these problems by voting for this political party or that. Roughly speaking the Republican party in the U.S. is associated with religion; with the development and spread of weapons (and of course those of mass destruction); with the destruction of the environment; with police state behavior (society of total surveillance); and of course torture. The Democratic party is clearly idealistic, not seeing that all the problems before us (significant ones of which have been brought up in this small essay) cannot be reduced and overcome by associating them with a particular political party. The Democratic party is roughly against religion; for science (keeping alive the revolution of such and the Enlightenment); against WMD and the proliferation of such; against destruction of the environment; and of course against a society of total surveillance and torture.

But the Democratic party simply saying it is for all this and against that is meaningless, and even more disturbing is its attempt to locate these problems with the Republican party, as if these problems can be simply voted away. In fact the Democratic party attempts to thrust what essentially are problems that largely are in our future--will come to together and reinforce each other in the future--on the party which people call conservative, representative of the past. Why the Democratic party would do such is very strange when anyone can simply observe that science and technology are making us increasingly Godless; science and technology have led to WMD; science and technology have led to the destruction of the environment; science and technology have led to the possibility of a society of total surveillance; science and technology--do I really need to continue? All that remains to be said is that it seems the dystopian view is inevitable.

In short, for all Republican and Democratic party bickering in the U.S.--the mutual attempts at laying blame--it seems we are inevitably led to a world which is not the fault of any one of us but rather all of us. Our scientific advancement and wrenching of ourselves out of religion have led us to become existential--and perhaps more and more paranoid for the simple reason we no longer have recourse to God but only ourselves. It is we who have developed WMD and become mass movements and often disgruntled individuals seeking more and more powerful weapons and strategies for delivering them. It is we who are refining asymmetrical warfare. It is we who are destroying the environment. It is we who are moving toward a society of total surveillance in an attempt to gain control, to prevent ourselves from destroying ourselves.

And it is we it seems, who will keep torture alive and flourishing. Alive and flourishing because information from individuals simply must be had--whether we educate people to make use of their minds or torture them for information--in a world man seems more intent on destroying than bringing to life. We cannot get out of all these developments which are still largely ahead of us by leaping to an idealistic Democratic party view and thrusting all these developments on the Republican party and blaming them. Quite simply it seems we have before us the continued development and refinement of WMD, the destruction of the environment, the continued development of technology to allow a society of total surveillance and of course an increasing acceptance and refinement of torture because along with all the other problems we have we have an increasing power of the individual--power beyond such things as liberty, and more like the individual becoming explosive. Beyond that it is difficult not to see that we will attempt to change man by a variety of methods--to create a man that can handle what he himself invents. Certainly we should hope we do not have to torture man too much to get him to become responsible. But then again, we are dealing with man--and when has man ever been really responsible? A working together by all of us to prevent the dystopian society....

Citizenofthepost-Americanworld Author Profile Page :

Zolko, just to say that I very much agree with you. What you refer to as the lack of proper analysis (causes, mechanisms and effects) of the current economic crisis by Western journalists, as well as their recent, crude, insistent propaganda campaign (coordinated quite nicely in all our leading newspapers... and even in the less important ones) to the effect that "recovery and prosperity are just around the corner"... I do find, personally, particularly noticeable.

As a matter of fact, not only have our journalists not yet told us 1. how many trillions of tax-payer money were involved, 2. where all that money went, 3. how many more trillions of our money will be needed, and 4. when we, citizens, can expect to recover it all... but in addition, they don't even appear to be interested in seeking and in coming to know the facts of the matter.

I am therefore led to conclude that as "professionals", our journalists are not even doing their job of informing us, citizens, the best they can and ought to. One more time, they have simply failed us miserably.

Were it not for non-journalistic sources and for the efforts made by the public at large, that democratic deficit would no doubt be more like a democratic bankruptcy.

Zolko Author Profile Page :

I live in France, but read regularly newspapers on the web from the UK, Germany, Hungary and USA. What I witness is a strange feeling that the journalists in the media, that is the "traditional" media are completely in bed with the politics, and more-and-more the reader's comments are more interresting. It looks like the "official media" and the "official journalists" are disconnected from the real world, or may-be they think we're too stupid to know and will swallow any dumb "theory" that they will tell.

This is extremely visible with the current financial meltdown, where ALL journalists talk about some sort of "recovery", and NONE analyse the idea that, may-be, there will be no recovery, that we're too rich and it's going to go downhill for us for any foreseeable future.

Frankly, no, I won't regret the "good ol'times" of the current corrupt media. Let them go down, they're part of the problem.

nats_uglymanyahoocom Author Profile Page :

I live in Canada, and newspapers in North America have deservedly earned the mistrust of the public.

The last 8 years of Bush have confirmed that if you are looking for the truth, you will not find it in the pages of major newspapers. The main reason for this is that newspapers do not make the bulk of their money selling the newspaper, but selling the advertising. And the advertisers will, sooner or later, dictate what you can write and what you cannot.

ceflynline Author Profile Page :

There isn't actually any reason that newspapers can't be quite profitable, since they have several highly saleable products. I have been trying to sell that concept to newspapers for years. Since my attempts are unsolicited, and since I am not in any way someone that would be recognized in the field, my offers are simply ignored.

Still, it ought to be easily arranged for newspapers to sell on average between a dime and a dollar's worth of product to every reader in their flock, and add to their circulation a whole lot of potential customers who don't currently waste their time on news papers.

The description of the system is reasonably simple, and the implementation is only somewhat more complicated.

Even so, this post will get ignored just like every other offer I ever made.

And the dying breed will continue to lament their decline.

If THEY can't invent it,it ain't worth inventing, apparently.

ceflynline Author Profile Page :

There isn't actually any reason that newspapers can't be quite profitable, since they have several highly saleable products. I have been trying to sell that concept to newspapers for years. Since my attempts are unsolicited, and since I am not in any way someone that would be recognized in the field, my offers are simply ignored.

Still, it ought to be easily arranged for newspapers to sell on average between a dime and a dollar's worth of product to every reader in their flock, and add to their circulation a whole lot of potential customers who don't currently waste their time on news papers.

The description of the system is reasonably simple, and the implementation is only somewhat more complicated.

Even so, this post will get ignored just like every other offer I ever made.

And the dying breed will continue to lament their decline.

If THEY can't invent it,it ain't worth inventing, apparently.

Citizenofthepost-Americanworld Author Profile Page :

We have all witnessed a most liberating technological revolution: quality information has indeed become accessible to us, citizens, in real time. In addition, we can now benefit from a wealth of highly valuable viewpoints, reaching us from all over the world, and in a variety of languages. That is why I believe the field of information has never been so exciting, the future of journalism never so promising.

In the hope of preserving their fiefdom, newspapers have long resisted. They have long refused to adapt to the new reality, claiming the information to be found on the Internet was of inferior quality, partial and biased, while taking for granted that the one they provided was necessarily (as it had always been), of high quality, more complete and, of course, objective…. Presumably, being by then familiar with how consent had been manufactured for so long by the media, the public at large did not buy that offhand, turned to the Internet, liked what it had experienced, and adopted it. In every part of the world, people began to exchange information with each other, to discuss freely all issues that mattered to them as individuals and as citizens. In the process, they discovered that not only could they challenge publicly most if not all those in power or in authority, they could even dispense altogether with what those people wanted them to believe.

As a result, in several countries, a good number of newspapers experienced financial difficulties. Some have had to close shop, others (very old institutions like Sweden's “Post-och Inrikes Tidninga”, for instance) now exist only in cyberspace, and (surprise!) most of them can now be found on the Internet and, whether they like it or not, they may soon drop their paper edition.

Personally, I see this as one of the most liberating series of events I have witnessed in my lifetime. I guess I should add that honestly, I don’t care what happens to the so-called information industry or business, anymore than I care what happens to advertising in the media. As a citizen, I pay to access the Internet, I use it extensively and am happy to report that as a user, I am quite pleased with the results. So much so that every morning when I once again get acquainted with the best and most diverse information that is provided by my sources in Asia, in Australasia, in Africa, in the Middle-East, in Europe, in Latin America, in North America, all of it in so many languages, to paraphrase that great man, I invariably feel, once again, that “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty we are free at last!”

Daho Author Profile Page :

Unfortunately newspapers around the world are fighting an uphill war against technology's competition. This is very sad, because newspapers are much more newsworthy than the TVnews and Internet, and are always available when you wish to read them. They also contain editorials and comments by eminent journalists in every field.
It is true that you may get free what you wish on the Internet, but it is not the same pleasure than holding the paper.
Let us hope that the public will wake up to try to maintain their favourite newspaper.

deepthroat21 Author Profile Page :

Your Country needs You too much. Ya'll just blend together, into the electronic media format, like a super nova. You know.... live webcam in the newsroom, with a 'special order' dept. for 'hardcopy' sheets or 'hardbound' editions in book format, DVDs, etc.... Like NASA does with NASA TV.

deepthroat21 Author Profile Page :

Your Country needs You too much. Ya'll just blend together, into the electronic media format, like a super nova. You know.... live webcam in the newsroom, with a 'special order' dept. for 'hardcopy' sheets or 'hardbound' editions in book format, DVDs, etc.... Like NASA does with NASA TV.

merstefish Author Profile Page :

We have subscribed to the Albuquerque Journal for many years. We are news junkies, reading our paper from cover to cover every day with our coffee. A favorite reporter-columnist, Leslie Linthicum, held a sidewalk cafe chat recently which we attended. I asked her about stories we're hearing about newspapers failing -- readership, advertising, etc. She responded that the Journal's readership was increasing and advertising is holding steady. While she said this she looked over our heads and received confirmation from her editor who had been listening. Having said that, we are concerned that journalism will dumb down as the power of the written word diminishes.

Steve Fish

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