Friday, May 9, 2008

National consolidation, local repercussions

In this article from, Louis Hau exmines media consolidation.

Hau points out that the number of individual newspaper owners has shrunk by two-thirds since 1975.

Funny thing about the 70s - it's also when newspaper circulation started falling. Prior to then, newspaper circulation had always grown - radio didn't stop it, and neither did television.

Blaming everything wrong with newspapers on media consolidation is obviously oversimplifying the problem, but there's no denying that the loss of local coverage has had a deleterious effect on newspaper circulations all across the country.

There's a popular trope about media consolidation's effect on local coverage. The number of studies charting the loss of local news is nothing less than staggering. Even giants like Frank Blethen, owner of the Seattle Times and numerous other papers, believes that local ownership provides better quality journalism.

The question is, what do we do about it? Especially as the FCC contemplates relaxing the rules even further.


Anonymous said...

The 1970s was also the time when all those starry-eyed hippies from the 60's were graduating from school wanting to 'make a difference' by being journalists. The quality of newspaper reporting dropped considerably and the bias increased a lot. This is a big part of why readership has dropped.

Len Cutler said...

That's an interesting idea, but how do you prove it?

It's one thing to say the quality of the content declined (and that it's purely the result of less-skilled writers), but without any sort of supporting evidence it sounds more like an opinion than anything else.

There are several Pulitzer-winning newspaper journalists in that group you're describing - Bob Woodward, Richard Cramer, Rick Atkinson, John White, and Loren Jenkins to name a few.