Thursday, March 05, 2009

Cutting the Wrong Things?

Matthew Yglesias points out something I’ve thought about in regards to the (in some places) failing newspaper business. Writing about a newspaper review of Watchmen with which he disagrees…
…the really interesting thing about his argument… is that it appears in The Washington Post written by a “Washington Post staff writer.” As newspapers vanish, there’s some stuff that it’s not clear we can replace. But I think we can be very confident that if the internet can provide anything, it’s arguments about the merits of comic books and their movie adaptations. And I think it’s somewhat strange to see news organizations holding on to this kind of professionally-produced content at the same time as they’re offering buyouts to people who do the kind of reporting that it’s not clear blogs can replace.

I don’t pretend to know anything much about the business of newspaper management but this sounds right (“truthy”, perhaps). If papers need to make cuts, shouldn’t it be in the area of opinion and other features that the internet handles better? Who needs the Op-Ed page and letters to the editor and movie reviews and travel tips when the internet is so full of that stuff already for free? I say this in the context of having to make choices between actual reporters and this other stuff. On the other hand, it may be the other stuff is what actually moves the papers, in which case there really is no economically viable market for newspaper reporting anyway and we’re all screwed.

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