Athenae basically says, yeah, sure, print journalism died of lead poisoning — in the sense that it was shot full of it:
No moral dimension?
It’s all just happening?
It’s nobody’s fault?
I hate to interfere with that comforting perception but I think it’s pretty clear there are more forces at work than just declining advertising revenue.
Imagine, for example, that instead of spending all the money they were making in the 80s and 90s on hookers, blow, and acquisitions of stupid [expletive] like baseball teams, newspaper companies socked that cash away. Imagine if they’d treated journalism like the public trust it always should have been, and safeguarded that trust, instead of partying like it was 1929.
Imagine if they’d greeted TV and the Internet not with defensive crabbing in public but with the confidence to use those media to enhance what they already did well, instead of flailing around in a goddamn panic pissing off every customer they had.
Imagine if they didn’t sign over their circulation and distribution departments to minimum-wagers who had no sales or logistics backgrounds and couldn’t sell the paper or deliver it properly.
Imagine if they courted “25-year-olds” with actual information, instead of insulting them with section after section that disparaged everything they found interesting or culturally relevant? Imagine if they looked at the places print was the best option — like college campuses or small towns or commuter suburbs — and invested there.
Imagine if they just RAN THEIR BUSINESSES WELL. What would print look like then?
We won’t know, because it’s much easier to just steal all the money, spend it on a yacht, and sit back while supposedly intelligent media commentators blame the Internet for everything.
And if you’re wondering why your local daily continues to suck, and sucks worse every year, well, this is, shall we say, a nontrivial part of the reason.