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26. Eric Alterman on the Future of Newspapers (March, 2009)

26. Eric Alterman on the Future of Newspapers (March, 2009)

Let’s move from the hearing back to the University and listen to Eric Alterman, columnist and CUNY professor of journalism, explain where he thinks newspapers are heading. This interview was recorded in March of 2009, a few months before David Simon spoke to Congress and a few months after the CNN piece,

“It’s a complicated argument, Newspapers are definitely moving to the Internet, quickly. There are going to be fewer and fewer paper newspapers and fewer and fewer reporters. it doesn’t really matter so much if the newspaper is printed on paper. It matters a little bit because when you get a newspaper on paper, your eye reads stories that you find interesting but that you weren’t looking for.”

And it gives us a shared base of knowledge and it creates a sense of national identity. We’re going to lose that, for sure. But the thing I’m really worried about losing is reporters. It costs about 1/20th the amount of money to put an ad on the net than it does in a print publication. 95% of that money is what was supporting these very large reporting enterprises. . .

When you look at these numbers what becomes clear is that if you only make a fraction of the money you used to make, even adjusted for the increase in readership online, it’s going to be much harder for you to support your newsroom. The job losses faced by the industry have only been an opening shot, if the papers continue to lose money, more and more reporters are going to find themselves out of work. If you slash the number of feet on the ground, the quality of news will decrease across the board.

It’s a model that won’t be able to sustain itself for long. Maybe the issue isn’t whether print should exist or not, it’s how to survive for long enough to develop a new economic model, and how many papers will still be around to reap the benefits.

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