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