Rocky Mountain News’ now former Multimedia Producer Matthew Roberts (the paper closed Friday) has released “Final Edition,” a short film on the final days of the paper (embed below).
At times it’s moving account of the newspapers final days, and you can’t help but feel some sympathy for the people who are out of a job, as you would in any mass layout, newspaper or not. But there’s this overwhelming theme of entitlement and bitterness that shines through from some of those featured. The internet killed the classified business, and bloggers just aren’t as good.
Sportswriter Jeff Legwold: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out…I still follow that rule. I don’t think everybody blogging is following that rule. And until we tell people that’s the difference, a lot more people like us are going to be sitting here telling this story.” Laura Frank, Investigative Reporter: “If the Rocky is gone, who is going to ask the questions? because the blogs aren’t asking them…it’s difficult for other media to get to the depth….”
Lets look past the fact that many of the newspapers in trouble currently haven’t been profitable since the turn of the century (before blogging came along) and look at why newspapers are falling now.
The recession isn’t entirely to blame. Newspapers have been going backwards since 2004. Craigslist in the United States did hasten the death of classified advertising, but classifieds have been a small part of newspapers for a long time now. Auto and real estate wasn’t replaced by free competitors but often paid online services, which did hurt newspapers.
But consider any typical business. 90% of small businesses are said to die with 10 years, many in their first 3 years. Are external factors alone to blame, or does the small business owner take some of the responsibility?
If I set up a business, and people didn’t want my product, do I get to hold a sense of entitlement over my position? Or would I be to blame for not offering goods or services that were in demand to the point that I could make money?
The journalists at The Rocky weren’t helped by the Scripps CEO saying in the closure announcement that they had done nothing wrong, and that the newspaper was a victim of the economy and dying business model.
But why is the business model dying?
Competition is a factor, and blogs are obviously part of that mix. But again, if I’d started a business and someone else opened up down the street and offered a more appealing product, and I lost customers, would it be fair to blame the other guy alone for my problems?
In a free market, we have competition. Yes, it can suck when you’re not on the winning side. But there’s nothing saying that you can’t start a new business, or reform your existing one to compete.
Newspapers remain wedded to print in a market that is switching to an all digital model. Newspapers offer a variety of news in a market that has moved strongly towards specialization (not exclusively, but more so than in the past.)
If more and more people are no longer buying newspapers because the content has no appeal vs the competition, wouldn’t at least some of the blame lie with the people who produce the newspaper content that fewer people now want to read?
News will go on, and no doubt many of the staff from The Rocky will find new jobs (notably their main print competitor The Denver News is reported to have picked up a range of writers), some of them may even move online (as we’ve seen with other newspaper closures). But blaming the internet and blogging while taking no responsibility for their part in creating a product that no longer had enough readers to sustain it is borderline delusional. Journalists do take some of the blame, and this sense of entitlement and superiority seen in this short movie, and regularly seen all over the world from journalists is part of the problem. The quicker they accept some of the blame, the more likely some newspapers will survive into the future.