Arguments Why Journalism School Professors Should Not Be Quoted Regarding The Business Of Newspapers
Posted by: Jon Fine on January 13, 2009
From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s own (excellent) reporting on the news that its parent company Hearst Newspapers is alloting but 60 days to sell it:
Tim Pilgrim, a journalism professor at Western Washington University, suggested that the P-I staff buy the paper and run it at a lesser profit than Hearst requires — perhaps assisted by a wealthy patron such as Bill Gates or Paul Allen.
“If this kind of profit-driven killing of legitimate news sources keeps happening, the online ‘news’ outlets that repackage P-I and other newspaper content will be out of news and only have opinion (blogging, etc.) to post,” Pilgrim wrote in an e-mail.
Um … Tim?
I'm a little confused as to what you mean by "lesser profit than Hearst requires" seeing that the P-I has been in the red since 2000. (And the stronger and larger paper in Seattle, the Seattle Times, has been having a hard time making any profits in the past several years.)
It's also a little weird to place that argument on Hearst, of all companies. Whatever its faults may be, Hearst has kept its San Francisco Chronicle alive and in print. The Chronicle, according statements made in a court of law , lost around $330 million between 2000 and September 2006. In 2001, it was losing $1 million each week. And, need we remind you, the revenue picture for big-city newspapers has gotten much grimmer since 2006.
There are things that make journalists' and ex-journalists' knees jerk--I speak here as both a journalist and the owner of two knees connected--and the notion of some mean-minded bean-counter emasculating a news operation in the name of ever-higher profit is one of them.
But, for newspapers, that's now an old and wholly outmoded argument, one best consigned to the 80's and '90's, back when big newspapers turned a profit.
These days, many of them don't. Most of the rest of the world understands that the game for big newspapers is "survival," not "cruelly squeezing more profits from the newsroom to satisfy some owners' greed," but apparently Tim Pilgrim isn't there yet.