Another left-leaning print newspaper, the Denver Post, is dying. The New York Times recently wrote about their troubles, and the Post itself has been frantically publishing warning stories to all the citizens of Colorado telling them how much everyone needs their reporting. They actually ran a story entitled, “You’ll miss us when we’re gone.”
That kind of headline reads to far more people as a condescending lecture than an endearing appeal. This assumption of entitlement (i.e. “You need us and you know it”) isn’t helping their cause, but there’s a lot more going on here.
For their part, The Denver Post employees seem to blame ownership for cutting their staff and resources. But why would ownership or management do that? There’s a fairly simple answer: sinking money into the Post is no longer a good investment for them. Newspapers across the country are dying because they won’t come to grips with that reality and ask themselves “why are we no longer a good investment for our owners?”
Personally, I’ve been privileged to write for a number of newspapers over the years. And while those opportunities have always been in a “contributing columnist” or freelance contributor role as opposed to an actual employee of the paper, I have always valued the opportunity to put something “in print.” Maybe it’s nostalgic more than anything, but I can appreciate those that prefer to have an actual newspaper in their hands to read over the morning coffee rather than scrolling a phone or iPad screen.
That said, I’ve always understood that the newspaper is a dying medium. Even without the anecdotal evidence I’ve compiled over the years in marking the feedback I receive for print columns versus online pieces, it just seems the height of naiveté to think rolled up papers in their little rain baggies dropped on your porch by a teenager on his bicycle at 4:30 in the morning is going to be able to compete with the age of the internet. There’s certainly something milkman/blacksmith-ish about the whole thing.
But there’s something else I’ve noticed too in my years of writing for “legacy” print publications. They are predominantly staffed by leftists with a glaring bias that somehow they all foolishly assume no one else notices. Even those who admit to you that their staff is overwhelming left-wingers sincerely believe that they can cleverly mask it from the ignorant masses. They aren’t nearly as clever as they believe themselves to be.
Though they are loathe to admit it, this arrogance is killing newspapers at a much faster rate than technological advances alone would. After all, many newspapers have worked diligently to promote their expertise (“We have the degrees in journalism and aren’t just guys sitting in their pajamas making observations from their kitchen tables”) and have adopted a tech-heavy development that includes apps and exclusive online content.
But here’s the side of technology these legacy papers simply haven’t figured out: it allows people who get tired of being told they are bigoted, backward, racist, radical, right-wing, knuckle-dragging, nationalist Neanderthals in every story, every day, find their news elsewhere. People who hold conservative views that run afoul of the liberal orthodoxy of newsrooms staffed by campus-trained advocates posing as objective reporters no longer are forced to pay for that nonsense just to find out what’s happening in the world. They can get it online. Those tired of reading local sports journalists expound upon LGBT or racially motivated political crusades when they’re just looking for scores and standings no longer have to put up with it. They can get them online.
Obviously those in legacy print media will object to all this, first by denying that’s what they do, and second by warning that if conservatives aren’t exposed daily to their left-wing propaganda, it feeds the dangerous polarization of America where everyone goes to their own tribes to get the news.
By making either argument they demonstrate that they are simply incapable of admitting or even recognizing they are the problem. A mentality that says polarization can only be avoided if both liberals and conservatives are subjected to liberal news doesn’t understand polarization. And a business plan that attempts to sustain itself while pillorying and ridiculing a majority of the very people they want to support them isn’t very smart.
Reporting is an honorable profession, but newspapers are a business. And their business is dying because they’ve made it an industry-wide practice to consistently insult their customers. There’s no one to blame except themselves.