Thursday, March 23, 2006

False Choice 

It's illuminating to listen to arguments among reporters of the trade-off in newspapering between profit and coverage. I'm talking about stories like this. Reporters forget that newspaper wars of the 19th and 20th Centuries were all about profits and not honest coverage, that Pulitzer's and Hearst's screaming -- and often inaccurate -- headlines drove street sales, that honesty came late to the news business, that some of the greatest sports writing from the 1920s was fiction with little relationship to facts or events, that even The New York Times printed poor coverage from overseas correspondents as analytical fact (and didn't know it.)

I don't like newspapers that cut coverage because they are failing to live up to their name -- newspapers. But to argue that a newspaper needn't worry about profit is off the mark. The question is how to achieve coverage while making a profit. It's an issue to which all the technologies we use today should be bent. Some newspapers are making headway: Others moan about new media.


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