It is now days old news that the Washington Post has been sold by the Graham family and I am still reading about it from the clique [journalists in and about the eastern corridor from DC to NYC.] It is one thing to discuss for a day, but the tweets, articles, on line blurbs are on going. It is endless. Everyone seems to have some pithy and deep quote about the sale of the paper that is supposed to be steeped with heavy meaning and move all of us – maybe even to tears?
While the clique continues to do its personal hand wringing about the ‘end of the era,’ (their era), their problem is that they failed because they are no longer relevant to 99 per cent of America. Most Americans are worried about getting paychecks – not whether Katherine Graham or Jeff Bezos is the one who signs their pay checks. Americans want paychecks – not overly self indulgent stories by the very people they expect to be hounding our government for information about who governs us, what they are doing as they govern us, and why they do what they do. The media is way too consumed with itself. It is not about them. This lack of realization is a large part of why Americans are not enamored with the media.
Newspapers — the Boston Globe and Washington Post are good examples — have been bleeding money for years and many are now being sold at a fire sale. Did you see how much the New York Times lost on the Boston Globe? Staggering! Big newspapers over the years simply did not change to meet the needs of the readers. Time marches on. Yes, it is hard to change and meet the needs of an evolving audience, but ‘man up.’ I confess to love tradition and from time to time get misty eyed about my old 1971 Toyota that I drove to Washington to go to law school at Georgetown – but eventually rust overtook and I could see the street through the floorboard. That was a good sign. I needed to change.
The clique has been too busy worrying about its image, talking to each other, arrogantly deciding what it wanted to do and how to do it, and not looking at the needs and wants of the American people and how they want their news and what they wanted in news. Eventually, ka boom! You can blame technology and the internet for the decline of the newspapers but maybe the newspapers should have figured out over the past 10-20 years how to build a better mousetrap? how to serve its readers? Wasn’t this day obvious? So why all the tears?
A good example of figuring out a solution for survival is Major League Baseball which got an antitrust exemption from Congress so that they could collude. Imagine if the newspaper industry had done likewise and colluded on a price to subscribe for news? They could have made the case that no one but the newspapers cover important local news like school board meetings. Local news is very important. A colluded price or pricing scheme didn’t have to be much money so that all consumers could and would buy ($1 a month for all the major news from these organizations? some other number? payment scheme? pool the money and divide up the monthly pie among papers?)
The newspaper industry might have dodged the 8 ball if they had skipped the salons where they talk to each other and instead realized that they are a service industry (yes, like a lawn service or even cable news) and thus evolved to meet the needs of their customers. Instead they thought they knew better…and maybe even thought they were better.
Am I wrong?