Black and White and Dead All Over

Stop the presses! Will journalism take democracy down with it?

Illustration: Tim Bower

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43% of Americans say it would hurt civic life “a lot” if their local newspaper closed. Yet when asked if they’d miss their paper, 42% say “not much” or “not at all.”

About 80% of news is originally reported by newspapers, according to former Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll.

In 2006, 62% of all reporters worked for newspapers.

Nearly 1 in 5 newspaper journalists has lost his or her job since 2001.

In the first 5 months of 2009, 100 newspapers shut down and more than 9,000 newspaper jobs were lost.

In April, Lou Carlozo, who wrote the Chicago Tribune‘s “Recession Diaries” blog, was laid off—and not allowed to post about it.

That same month, St. Louis’ Suburban Journals canned Todd Smith, a reporter who was shot last year when a gunman stormed a city council meeting he was covering.

Earlier this year, Phoenix’s East Valley Tribune won a Pulitzer Prize for an investigative story written by a reporter who’d been let go 6 months earlier.

Even 4 years ago, 37 of the 100 largest daily papers had no full-time investigative reporters.

Since 1985, the number of newspapers with Washington bureaus has dropped by more than 50%.

72% fewer newspapers and wire services cover Congress today than in the mid-1980s.

1/3 fewer newspaper reporters are dedicated to covering state capitols today than in 2003.

The News Hole

News as % of website content

Old-media websites


Citizen journalism websites




Source: Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism. (“Content” excludes advertising.)

Nearly 2/3 of newspaper executives say they’ve cut foreign coverage in the past 3 years.

In May 2007, Pasadena Now announced it would outsource 2 local reporting jobs to India.

Fictional comic-strip reporter Brenda Starr was furloughed this spring. She’s now working for an Indian paper.

Michael Precker left his job as a reporter and editor at the Dallas Morning News to manage a topless club because “it got to be more ridiculous to hang on at a newspaper.”

In April, blogger Jonathan Mann created a video called “Saving Newspapers: The Musical!” Proposed solution: “Boobs on the front page!”

A 2007 survey found that the most knowledgeable media consumers were regular Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert watchers—tied with readers of newspaper websites.

The Internet displaced newspapers as Americans’ No. 2 source of news in 2008. TV is still No. 1.

By one estimate, an entirely Web-based New York Times could generate only enough money to support about 20% of the paper’s current staff.

Creating an endowment to finance the Times would cost an estimated $5 billion.

Last year, as Times stock fell 58%, CEO Janet Robinson’s compensation went up $1.4 million, to $5.6 million.

In June 2007, the Times moved to a new, $1.5 billion building. It’s since made money by selling its offices and leasing them back.

In August 2007, a Times op-ed called Mexican businessman Carlos Slim Helú a “robber baron.” This January, the paper took a $250 million loan from Slim at 14% interest.

The editor of the New York Times Magazine says a typical cover story costs more than $40,000 to produce—and that excludes editing, art, and fact-checking.

That’s more than Mother Jones‘ story budget for freelance writers for an entire issue.

Looks Bad on Paper

Annual % change for US papers

Looks Bad on Paper

Sources: Newspaper Association of America; Nielsen Online

Last February, Gannett, which owns USA Today, wrote down $7.4 billion in “goodwill”—a measure of its brand value.

The American Society of Newspaper Editors recently took “paper” out of its name. Its president explained, “We are all way beyond ink on paper.”

France has offered its newspaper industry a bailout package worth $800 million, including free subscriptions for 18-year-olds.

A similar bailout for US papers would cost at least $12 billion.

Asked in May if he’d invest in newspapers, Warren Buffett said he “would not buy them at any price.” His business partner added, “It’s really a national tragedy…They kept government more honest than they would otherwise be.”

A recent study of government accountability around the world found a strong link between high levels of newspaper readership and lower levels of corruption.

An economist found that after the Cincinnati Post closed in 2007, fewer people in the area voted, fewer candidates ran for office, and incumbents were more likely to be reelected.

Before the 2006 elections, 30-minute local TV newscasts spent less than 2 minutes on election coverage. They spent 7 minutes on sports and weather.

Between 2007 and 2008, Iraq coverage dropped 95% on cable news, 91% on network news, and 65% in papers.

In March, the Newspaper Project launched a series of ads touting papers as “America’s first portable information device.”

Blog Bites Man

Meet the new media elite predicting the end of everything—but their pet projects.




Arianna Huffington

“The future of journalism is not dependent on the future of newspapers.”

Unpaid celebrity bloggers—like those on her site!

Jay Rosen

“Bloggers vs. journalists is over.”

Citizen journalism sites—like his!

Steven Johnson

“There is going to be more content, not less.”

Hyperlocal news sites—like his!

Clay Shirky

“Even the revolutionaries can’t predict what will happen.”

Candid, confounded pundits—like him!

Jeff Jarvis

“Print is where words go to die.”

Ignoring print—but not his What Would Google Do?


New York Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. says the “wonderful” new $489 Kindle DX will “enhance our ability to reach millions of readers.”

Forrester Research predicts that just 4.5% of consumers will own e-readers like the Kindle by 2012.

In November 2007, Rupert Murdoch decided to make the Wall Street Journal website free. This April, he declared, “People reading news for free on the Web, that’s got to change.”

San Francisco Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein has suggested that people who don’t pay for news should be jailed.

In January, Google ended a venture to sell ads in papers. A month later, it lifted a ban on ads on Google News—whose content comes largely from papers.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said that except for reported news, the Internet is a “cesspool” of misinformation.

The top 10% of bloggers earnan average of $19,000 a year. For all bloggers, the median is $200 for men, $100 for women.

The median starting salary for journalism majors is $35,600. For econ majors, it’s $50,100.

In May, the Huffington Post auctioned off an internship for charity. Its actual value was listed as $500. As this went to press, the top bid was $13,000.

36% of Americans say the press has “hurt democracy.”

Earlier this year, while working as a correspondent for Pajamas Media, Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher declared, “I think media should be abolished from, you know, reporting.”

Exhibit Sources


Death of newspapers hurts civic life: “Internet Overtakes Newspaper as News Outlet,” Pew Research Center, December 23, 2008

News comes from newspapers: “John S. Carroll on Why Newspapers Matter,” Neiman Watchdog, April 28, 2006

Most reporters used to work for newspapers: Bureau of Labor Statistics National Employment Matrix

Journalist job loss: “State of the News Media 2009,” Pew Research Center, March 16, 2009

Newspapers shut down: “2009 Total,” Paper Cuts

Lou Carlozo not allowed to vent: “The Final Recession Diaries Blog The Chicago Tribune Does Not Want You To Read,” True/, April 23, 2009; email from Lou Carlozo

Take a bullet for the business: “Suburban Journals Fires Reporter Who Took Bullet During Kirkwood Shootings,” Daily River Front Times, April 21, 2009; “For Kirkwood Shooting Victim, Gun Control Takes on New Meaning,” Suburban Journals, February 1, 2009

Pulitzer Prize winner laid off: “East Valley Tribune Celebrates Winning Pulitzer Prize,” East Valley Tribune, April 20, 2009; email from Tribune reporter Paul Giblin

No full-time investigative reporters: Interview with Arizona University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication assistant dean Kristin Gilger, May 2009

Drop in Washington bureaus: “The New Washington Press Corps,” Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, February 11, 2009

Fewer newspapers cover Congress: “The New Washington Press Corps,” Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, February 11, 2009

Reporters covering state capitols surveys: American Journalism Review, April/May 2009

News Hole: “State of the News Media 2009,” Pew Research Center, March 16, 2009

Foreign coverage cut: “The Changing Newsroom: Changing Content,” Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism

Reporting jobs outsourced to India: Email from James MacPherson, editor of Pasadena Now, May 15, 2009

Brenda Starr laid off: “Brenda Star,” and phone conversation with The Chicago Tribune

Michael Precker: Interview, April 28, 2009

“Saving Newspapers: The Musical!”: “Saving Newspapers: The Musical!“; Rock Cookie Bottom

Savvy media consumers watch Stewart and Colbert: “Public Knowledge of Current Affairs Little Changed by News and Information Revolutions,” Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, April 15, 2007

Internet is No. 2 source of news: “Internet Overtakes Newspapers as News Outlet,” Pew Research Center, December 23, 2008

Estimate of a Web-based New York Times: “End Times,” The Atlantic, January/February 2009

Estimated Times endowment: “News You Can Endow,” New York Times, January 28, 2009

Times stock and CEO: Yahoo! Finance; New York Times Co. SEC Proxy Statement, March 2009

Times moves, then sells: “Times Co. Building Deal Raises Cash,” March 20, 2009; “Times Co. Is in Talks to Sell Part of Building,” New York Times, January 22, 2009

Carlos Slim: “Mexico’s Plutocracy Thrives on Robber-Baron Concessions,” New York Times, August 27, 2007; “Mexican Billionaire Invests in Times Company,” New York Times, January 20, 2009

Cost of a cover story: “Gerry Marzorati on the Future of Long-Form Narrative,” Council for Advancement and Support of Education Editors Forum, March 31, 2009

MoJo freelance budget: Madeleine Buckingham, Chief Financial Officer, Mother Jones

Gannett goodwill: Gannett 2008 Annual Report

Bad on paper: “Total Paid Circulation,” Newspaper Association of America; World Association of Newspapers

ASNE changes its name: “Proposed Bylaws Changes,” December 16, 2008; “ASNE Votes to Drop ‘Newspapers’ from Its Name,” April 6, 2009

French bailout: “A Newspaper Bailout,” The Washington Post, February 27, 2009

Bailout for US papers: Newspaper Association of America

Warren Buffett: “Buffett Sees ‘Unending Losses’ for Many Newspapers,” Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2009; Interview with Dorothy Obert, assistant to Charlie Munger, May 6, 2009

More newspaper reading equals less government corruption: “Are You Being Served? Political Accountability and Quality of Government,” The Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization

Cincinnati Post: “Do Newspapers Matter? Evidence from the Closure of the Cincinnati Post,” Sam Schulofer-Wohl and Miguel Garrido, Princeton University

Televised election coverage: “Midwest Local TV Newscasts Devote 2.5 Times as Much Air Time to Political Ads as Election Coverage, Study Finds,” University of Wisconsin Newslab, November 21, 2006

Less Iraq coverage: “Iraq War Coverage Plunges,” Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism

“America’s first portable information device”: “Newspaper Project: New Ads and 2 Original Cartoons,” March 3, 2009

Blog Bites Man: Arianna Huffington: “Hearing of the Communications, Technology and the Internet Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee,” May 6, 2009; Jay Rosen: “Blogger vs. Journalist Is Over,” Press Thinking, January 21, 2005; Steven Johnson: “Old Growth Media and the Future of the News,” March 14, 2009; Clay Shirky: “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable“; Jeff Jarvis: “Fast Company Dialogue: Is Print Dead,” Buzz Machine, December 7, 2005, and What Would Google Do?

What Kindle could do for the Times: “Sulzberger: ‘Wonderful’ Kindle Will Help The NYT Reach New Readers,” Poynter Online, May 6, 2009

E-Readers: “Digital Edge,” Newspaper Association of America, April 2, 2009

Rupert Murdoch: “Murdoch Said to Stress Free Access to Wall St. Journal’s Web Site,” New York Times, November 14, 2007; “They Pay for Cable, Music, and Extra Bags. How About News?New York Times, April 8, 2009

Phil Bronstein: “The Colbert Report,” April 8, 2009

Google ads: “Google Ends Sale of Ads in Papers After Two Years,” New York Times, January 21, 2009; “Google Puts Small Ads on Pages of News Site,” New York Times, February 27, 2009

Internet is a “cesspool”: “Google: Why Magazine Brands Matter,” Advertising Age, October 13, 2008

Bloggers’ salaries: “State of the Blogosphere,”

Undergraduate starting salaries: “Best Undergraduate College Degrees By Salary,”

HuffPo internship for sale: Charity Buzz

Press has “hurt democracy”: “Internet News Audience Highly Critical of News Organizations,” Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, August 9, 2007

Joe the Plumber: “Joe the Plumber: ‘I think media should be abolished from reporting,’, January 12, 2009; “Pro-Joe: Plumber’s Trip to Israel Scares the Establishment Media,” Pajamas Media, January 12, 2009


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