That newspaper publishers are in tough times is nothing new. Circulation and advertising have been falling for a few years now. And when you consider what percentage of their advertising revenue depended on car dealers, they are seeing their difficulty being compounded.
A snapshot from today’s headlines should tell you how newspapers are going have to be creative, from a purely business standpoint, in order to survive.
- Newspapers are feeling the economic pinch, too (Pensacola News Journal)
- Times Co. to borrow against building (New York Times)
- Tribune Co. files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (Chicago Tribune, LA Times)
- McClatchy puts Miami Herald up for sale (Miami Herald)
The ill-advised bailouts we’ve already seen do not justify yet another one for this industry. Like automakers, this industry needs to change to meet the times as well. But not at taxpayers’ expense.
Some on the left are falling back to another FDR program, focusing on the writers that are finding themselves out in the job market. About 15,000 of them so far. So what kind of make-work program would this ‘Federal Writers Project’ look like you ask?
Today, there are many dislocated “old media” journalists from newspapers, radio, and television on the street–here I declare my personal interest, as one of them–who could provide a skilled pool to staff a new FWP. But since these journalists represent only a fraction of the larger displaced workforce, it is fair to ask what the public benefit would be of money spent.
This time, the FWP could begin by documenting the ground-level impact of the Great Recession; chronicling the transition to a green economy; or capturing the experiences of the thousands of immigrants who are changing the American complexion. Like the original FWP, the new version would focus in particular on those segments of society largely ignored by commercial and even public media. At the same time, the multimedia fruits of this research would be open-sourced to all media, as well as to academics. As an example, oral history as a discipline has made great strides in the past 70 years, and with the development of video techniques, the forum of the Internet could make these multi-media interviews widely available to schools and scholars, as well as to average Americans.
And how it might work? According to Mark I. Pinsky at The New Republic, it would, naturally, involve colleges and universities, liberals’ home away from home to manage the program.
Administering the new FWP as an individual grant program through community colleges and universities could minimize bureaucracy and overhead. In consultation with the Obama administration–perhaps through the National Endowment for the Humanities–and Congress, guidelines could be established and a small staff assembled in Washington to oversee the projects, in the form of grants, rather than hourly wages. Projects could be pitched locally to colleges, or suggested and posted by them, vetted preliminarily and then approved or rejected by the national staff.
If the Obama administration decided to include the newspaper publishing industry in some kind of bailout, wouldn’t that be a conflict of interest?
link: Write Now
UPDATE: 17:20, This morning Tribune Co. was reported to be considering Chapter 11. They have now filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.