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The LinkUp Blog The Industry's Best-Kept Secret

May 21, 2007 / Toby Dayton

L.A. Times Debates The Future Of Daily Newspapers

Earlier this month, the L.A. Times focused on the future of media in a 5-part series entitled Dust-Up. Contributors included Robert W. McChesney, a professor of Communication at the University of Illinois and co-founder and president of Free Press and Glenn Harlan Reynolds, the Beauchamp Brogan distinguished professor of law at the University of Tennessee and creator of Instapundit.com. While the entire series stands as a terrific read for anyone interested in media, I was particularly interested in the topic covered on the 3rd day, the upheaval going on in the U.S. daily newspaper industry.

McChesney begins his piece by stating that the predictions on the certain death of daily newspapers are premature and greatly exaggerated and that the decline taking place is due more to structural issues than managerial incompetence. Unfortunately, McChesney then proceeds to contradict himself by stating that the negative reinforcing cycle plaguing the industry was not only initiated by short-sighted corporate managers, but that these same individuals seem to be incapable of getting themselves out of the downward tailspin. Sounds like managerial incompetence to me. He also ends his piece by examining the consequences of major metro markets losing their daily papers, the very same eventuality he argued was being greatly exaggerated by most media pundits these days. If it isn’t going to happen anytime soon or maybe ever, why worry about its ramifications?

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, in his counter-piece, argues that the first major metro daily to fold will be the Minneapolis Star Tribune, as evidenced by the decision to reassign local columnist James Lilek. While I’d argue that there is far better evidence supporting Reynolds’ view, I certainly agree with his opinion that blame for the declining dailies rests squarely on the shoulders of ‘inept, miserable management.’ I also agree with Reynolds’ observation that most newspapers do not even appear to be trying to rectify their predicament. Though the Star Tribune announced some changes this past weekend, the moves appear to be minor at best, consisting mostly of a modest shift towards more local coverage. If this is the full extent of the ground-breaking, dramatic revamping that everyone in town has been waiting for, I’ll side with Reynolds’ prediction that Minneapolis will be the first major city in the U.S. to lose its daily newspaper.

[tags]L.A. Times, Death of Dailies, Decline of Newspapers, Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Robert McChesney, Dust-Up, Free Press, Instapundit.com, University of Illinois, University of Tennessee, Future of Media, Media, Advertising, Publishing[/tags]