Karl du Fresne sees some sort of reddish light down a dark blue tunnel

I must be the first to congratulate Fairfax columnist Karl du Fresne for a well-considered column about the collapse of newspapers:

Why newspapers are falling over – and why we still need them

Intent on maximising profit, the new breed of proprietors have slashed costs and shed staff. Inevitably, their papers have suffered.

It’s a vicious circle: profits fall, so the owners cut staff numbers and close branch offices or overseas bureaus to save money. The paper’s quality then slips, so fewer people buy it. Advertisers note the declining circulation figures and take their business elsewhere. Thus profit continues to decline, to which the company’s response is to … cut costs by getting rid of more staff. And on it goes in a downward spiral.

In the US, some newspaper companies compounded their problems by greedily acquiring other titles, using borrowed money, and are now struggling under a massive debt burden.

It all adds up to what American journalism professor Robert McChesney, in a recent interview on Radio New Zealand, called a collapse of journalism.

It’s amazing that Karl du Fresne didn’t break out in hives just thinking about writing the passages cited above.

And what about Karl’s rusted-on adherence to the “free market”? Surely the newspaper owners are only acting as they might be expected: maximising shareholder value by cutting costs etc. But “a vicious circle”…That’s exactly what I’ve been saying. the profit system is a vicious circle, it’s part of the problem. And “greedily acquiring other titles”…again that’s how the free market works. it’s a system built on greed and vicious circles. That’s why McChesney argues about the collapse of newspapers, the crisis and possible collapse of journalism.

Karl, you’re sounding like an “avowed socialist”. That’s excellent, comrade, keep it up. Maybe we could work together to prevent the collapse of journalism.

This is a remarkable turn-around. Just two weeks ago, Karl wrote a piece that appeared on his blog with the headline Why leftist academics hate the media. It was a strident attack on people like me who talk about McChesney and political economy in flattering tones. My reply is here: Old habitus die hard…

Of course Robert McChesney is about as left as it gets in US media criticism. He’s never been a journalist and he’s about as academic as it’s possible to be. One slight criticism, McChesney’s not a journalism professor, as Karl writes, he’s actually a professor of media and political economy of communication. A small point, but accuracy counts.

McChesney”s also a political activist for media democracy, through the organisation he founded, Free Press.

Anyway, the point is that Ethical Martini doesn’t bear a grudge and tries not to get too personal. So, well done Karl, keep up the right/left kind of thinking. We could have a beautiful friendship.

But, I really do need to ask: “Why Karl?” and “Why now?”

4 Responses to Karl du Fresne sees some sort of reddish light down a dark blue tunnel

  1. There’s another aspect. Today’s newspapers are owned by corporations rather than individual proprietors. Those old-time newspaper owners often had ink in their veins and understood how the industry worked. They knew that 7 percent return on capital over the long haul wasn’t a bad deal.

    This simply doesn’t apply to ineffiencient, highly leveraqed modern corporations run by bean-counters and teams of what, Kerry Packer once said in my hearing, “carpet strollers”. Typically they, or their shareholders, expected to see a return of capital in excess of 20 percent. The only way this could be achieved was by slowly killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.

    It wasn’t capitalism that killed the industry it was corporatism.

  2. despicable says:

    When there is no longer a moderate center to compromise the irreconcilable differences between opposing forces, the opposing forces will clash.

    The irreconcilable differences that exist that will bring a violent revolution to the world, will be the Progressive forces of workers. This force of no longer employed workers, that will be locked out of the system of capitalism will have no alternative but to attempt to change the system of competition for the profit of capitalists, to a system of social cooperation, and instituting a planned economy, so as to satisfy the needs of the entire community.
    The elimination of capitalists as a force in the world, will necessitate the establishing of the dictatorship of the working class, so as to insure a classless society and to prevent a counter revolution by the capitalist forces. These forces will naturally attempt to regain capitalist power in the world.

    This inevitable clash between the forces that want to go forward toward a dream, of a way the future can be, a future of sharing the abundant material wealth of the planet, according to individual need.

    Those that oppose this march toward socialism, and later communism, … and want to go back into our past and reclaim the dreams of our founding fathers, and the traditions, of our glorious past.
    The opposite tendencies inherent in the movement of the political right and left wing, will inevitably bring about a radical change!
    The Moderate Centrists that can no longer compromise with the forces that do not want to stand still but move forward or backward, will disappear into the ranks of those that want to move backward into the early stages of capitalism, and those that want to move forward into the ranks of the dispossessed and their struggle for socialism.
    With no compromising center to keep everything standing still, … the revolution will begin!

    The conditions for revolution are nowhere close, as of right now!

    Obama is a pragmatist and a progressive capitalist! He is not a Socialist or a Communist so all you champions of our glorious past, should be able to sleep well, … for now!
    Posted by Despicable at 2:42 AM

  3. despicable says:

    Newspapers must serve the public in a much different way than it did in the past to survive into the modern era!
    It has to get close to the subscriber in a way that no other media can. It has to allow an intimacy and a connection to the reader that competing media cannot duplicate.
    I suggest that the printed media establish a community of viewers that interact with each other and with the newspaper, that it become a leader in setting up community projects and in promoting freedom of speech. It should be all about being partisan in their belief structure and forming an allegiance with their partisan readership. Their advertisers should support and respect the partisan views of their readers. Newspapers at this point in time should be the vanguard of political movements and encourage intelligent debates with opposing groups.

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