I go to a lot of panels that purport to be about the future of media. I do this despite knowing that every single one of them will feature at least one speaker who will make me want to cut my own head off and eat it, who will lead all the others down the path of bemoaning the unwashed Internet hordes and iPod-addicted children who have Ruined Everything, who will act like it’s totally impossible to write anymore now that we have to do it on these computer things.
Not one of these wankfests, and I’m talking a half-dozen in the last two years because I’m a nerd, ever makes the extremely simple point that David Carr made today:
“Can anyone argue that Gannett newspapers and journalism are better today, and that news consumers are better served?” he wrote.
“How did Mr. Dubow and Gannett serve the consumer?” Mr. Lewis continued. “They laid off journalists. They cut the pay of those who remained, while demanding that they work longer hours. They closed news bureaus. They slashed newsroom budgets. As revenue fell, and stock prices tanked, and product quality deteriorated, they rewarded themselves with huge pay raises and bonuses.”
Sure, he was talking about Gannett, but he could have been talking about the Tribune Company, or come to think of it, much of the American economy that used to make money by making things. Many newspaper companies are working hard against steep challenges to innovate into a new future, but Mr. Dubow and his team seemed content to just ride the collapse of the business.
No one, least of all me, is suggesting that running a newspaper company is a piece of cake. But the people in the industry who are content to slide people out of the back of the truck until it runs out of gas not only don’t deserve tens of millions in bonuses, they don’t deserve jobs.
What’s happened to newspapers didn’t happen because Craiglist stole all the classified ads away. It didn’t happen because Teh Kidz want all your base to belong to them. For all the jerking off about the iPhone and the iPad and the new 24-hour news cycle and TMZ and whatever, newspaper companies got into trouble because a bunch of guys were more interested in enriching themselves than in serving their readers.
Hold a panel on that, the Throw All the Bastards in Jail panel, and you might have something worth listening to.