Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Death in the Family

If you have any connection to journalism, even as modest as a media class or two that you took in college or the work you did on your high school newspaper, you speak the name of Editor & Publisher in almost hushed tones, with the reverence it deserves.

As long as I can remember, Editor & Publisher has served a vital role for journalists. It was always present in every newsroom in which I worked. It was one of the few things that all the editors and supervisors with whom I worked had in common.

It was, therefore, a shock to learn today that Editor & Publisher will stop publishing after more than a century of serving the newspaper industry. It's that punched–in–the–gut feeling you get when someone in the family dies.

I knew things were bad in the newspaper business these days. A bad economy combined with declining advertising revenue (admittedly, along with a decline in quality at some papers) has brought many changes to the industry. But, somehow, I believed that a trade journal, especially one that had been honored as often as E&P, had to survive for the industry to regroup and grow.

Max Boot, at Commentary, likens this "adjustment" to growing pains brought on by the emergence of new technology.

"No doubt buggy makers around the turn of the 20th century felt similarly threatened by the arrival of automobiles," Boot writes, "and missed the fact that the transportation industry as a whole was growing even as their small sector of it was receding into nothingness."

Boot is too simplistic, I think, too prone to looking for the romantic angle, although there may be a kernel or two of truth in that stuff about new technology. I'm still inclined to believe that the loss of advertising revenue has more to do with the crisis in the newspaper business, but there is no doubt in my mind that most newspaper publishers failed to recognize the changes that would be produced by the internet — and they and their former employees are paying the price for that today.

That said, though, it is a sad day for journalism.

1 comment:

askcherlock said...

It is sad, really, to see the fall of newspapers. In our city there were three different papers per day. Now there is only a morning newspaper with a thin crust and not too many toppings. Lack of revenues certainly had something to do with this, but I must agree with you in that the power of the Internet explosion was a moving force.