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Weekend Reads: Requiem for the Newspapers

Saturday, March 18, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Alexandra von Maltzan on a week of extraordinary developments not widely understood by MSM.

Carol Platt Liebau’s reply to Daniel Henninger.

RealClearPolitics’ Tom Bevan’s pointer to the Russ Smith assessment of assorted folks, but especially Andrew Sullivan. (The link to the Smith article is down, and can’t be enterd directly from NYPRess either.)

LAWeekly’s Bill Bradley’s assessment of the political road (uphill) ahead for Arnold. (Scroll down.)

Now, note that none of my pointers are to newspaper articles. Newspapers are discussed in the recently issued State of the News Media, 2006:

In 2004, the newspaper circulation losses that had been building slowly over 15 years began to accelerate.

In 2005 things got roughly three times worse.

And in 2006, newspaper executives at best hoped only to slow the bleeding. Few were arguing that the numbers would head back up or even stabilize.

Memo to J-School students everywhere: The last place you want to work is a newspaper, and the last people you want to learn from are “old school” newspaper reporters and editors.

As an example of the bubble in which most legacy media live, I offer –as I could literally every week– Tim Rutten’s Saturday media column from today’s Los Angeles Times. Tim’s one of the loudest tubas for legacy media, reliably telling us each and every week why legacy media is special and why new media comes in various shades of irresponsible, bigoted, xenophobic etc.

Tim’s become a cartoonist, and a not very good one.

Today Tim’s worried about Scooter Libbey’s subpoenas to other legacy media. The column is titled “Why you should care about reporters’ rights?”, and in one particularly overwrought paragraph Rutten exclaims:

Is any substantial number of Americans really prepared to accept the proposition that a reporter going about the business of journalism is legally or morally the same as a hostile power’s secret agent? Clearly, a bitter and ideologically intoxicated minority is prepared to do that, but what then?

I don’t think this ploy is going to persuade even the immediate families of legacy media. The vast majority of Americans –neither bitter nor ideologicially intoxicated– don’t think much of old media, and certainly don’t think reporters and pundits are entitled to any greater rights than ordinary Americans. If a reporter or pundit is a witness improtant to a criminal defendant’s defense, they should show up for trial without whining.

If a reporter has traded the secrets of the United States for fame and fortune, that reporter should be prosecuted.

Rutten doesn’t understand these two very basic propositions, doesn’t understand why folks aren’t reading his column or newspapers generally, doesn’t understand the end of the era that brought genuine competition to the opinion and analysis business, a competition that old tubas simply haven’t been able to succeed in because they are too used to the comforts and pace of the legacy media, for which a column a week was adequate because no one else was writing more than that.

But mostly he doesn’t understand that most Americans sneer at journalists who think themselves a sort of priestly class of secular America, elite and all-knowing, and definitely in charge.

Contempt repaid with contempt.

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