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"Polls do strongly confirm that the great majority of journalists are liberal. Nevertheless, readers can usually have confidence in the news and other reports in the eminent papers."

I'm not so certain about this. Lying by telling half truths has become quite the art form these days. The NY Times among others, along with the major broadcasters, long ago decided to kiss half their readers/viewers goodbye.

They are paying the price now.


The fate of newspapers is one thing, the fate of professional journalism another. I am not sure Professor Becker's posting deals satisfactorily with the latter.

High quality opinion pieces, like those provided by Professor Becker and Judge Posner, will always attract a substantial readership because of their reputations. And they surely have economic resources that render them immune to the whims of readers. But this is not true of the journalism provided by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or the Financial Times. Who supports their activities if the resources of the internet cannot be sufficiently monetized?

Are the services of professional journalism no longer a matter of concern? Can we really verify the news, or even compile it, without their assistance?


Is it more efficient to have a bustling newspaper industry or the blogosphere and its respected members who have the background and resources to produce high quality content (a medium I put my faith in just major periodicals)?


I think the sense of long-term optimism here is correct, but I'm not so sanguine about the short term. Yes, high-profile institutions like the New York Times are likely to survive in some form, or at least be supplanted by online successors of similar quality and reputation. One of the important functions of the dying newspaper industry, however, is to serve as a watchdog on much lower-profile questions of local policy and governance, and I haven't yet seen online institutions develop that fulfill nearly the same role as a major city newspaper in this sense.

In many cases, online news has not yet solved a basic coordination problem: it has not coalesced around a clearly identifiable set of institutions that act as clearinghouses for information and opinion. In the past, local newspapers -- through the massive brick-and-mortar investments demanded by their industry -- have acted as the obvious "good equilibrium," but the Internet provides few ready analogues, and developing them may be a painful process.


Historically newspapers performed multiple functions including the news and advertising functions recognized by Posner and Becker. But there were other functions,too. One of the most important was community boosterism--support for local charities, publicity for local businesses etc. Perhaps the most important function was identifying the local infrastructure needs that a community requires and serving as an organizing focal point for all local interests to bring their leverage to bear on those needs. Today most journalists prefer to tear down rather than build up. The Marxian view of economic history that leads most journalists to be liberal results in them believing that most public efforts to improve a community's economy are class controlled and benefit the well-off. Therefore, journalist generally want to write adverse stories about the political reality of making things happen. By focusing on the sausage-making aspect of progress, they gratify their ideology, but also slow or prevent progress. Many readers have figured this out and prefer to use information sources without the static. Why waste the time reading the ideological drivel when facts are elsewhere available--at little or no cost. When one wants opinion, he can turn to a quality blog with meaningful thought.


"The best newspapers, like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and Washington Post"

I laughed when you listed The Old Grey Lady first; were you drunk?


yes I agree with you

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I would disagree about the quality of reporting. It is clear that many of the daily newspapers carry a huge bias to one side or another. It is not out of the realm to call the NY Times a left wing liberal rag. The Wall Street Journal could be called a right wing conservative rag.

I think the public would be better served if it knew the bias before hand. The internet, despite all its foibles is at least generally transparent with it's bias. HuffPo, DailyKos are considered lefty blogs, while others, like Pajamas Media identify themselves as right wing.


newspapers will always be around. but on the other hand i dont know because eventually every person on the globe will have internet whether it appears so now or not. insightful article.


Intresting, that everyone seems to believe that the problem of Newspapsers revolves around either the ideological content or around the "value" or "benefits" bestowed by the different Mediums. As for the "ideological" content, "There is no such thing as non-partisan Press". That explains why the Nation has broken down into the two opposing camps of Liberal or Conservative. As for the "value and benefit" of the two Mediums, only time will tell.

Perhaps the most important issue in the entire subject is the issue of the "Pricing Mechanism". Which seems to have broken down. Hence, the desire by the Print Medium to control "Pricing" by revising the Copyright Laws in order to protect their product from Electronic Pirates.

A little Plagarism and Theft anyone?


As Anon. said at 7:41, it is the market for professional jounalism that matters. The precise medium in which the jounalists expresss themselves is secondary. I suspect that demand in that market is steadily stengthening, nationally and internationally. Nothing else could explain the steady growth of the Economist's circulation. The problem is that consumers who are willing to pay, if they must, have increasing access to the content without charge. The internet has developed no sufficient way of raising revenue from that demand.

However, one internet dependant format is approaching the stage where it could do so. 'Electronic books' (Kindle, etc.) deliver reading matter for worthwhile levels of payment. Desperate quality dailies are trying to set up means of getting their readers to subscribe through electronic books. I have doubts of the idea working for the conventional daily paper format; but for a continually updated review of events and of analysis, it seems ideal. Magazines like the Economist and the Atlantic seem to be positioning themselves already to go over to this form of publishing as soon as the desperate dailies have paid the set-up costs.

For the quality dailies, a better bet would seem to be to aim to dispense with their printing and distribution costs, and become internet freesheets supported by advertising. That will entail some expenditure in proving to advertisers the quality as well as the quantity of the internet audience that the quality dailies reach, but it looks like a viable business model for the fairly near future. Any internet jounal aimed at a niche or local market could probably also operate this model.

Finally, since accurate news and analysis are to some degree common goods, public service journalism - our existing PBS and BBC are examples - should survive, and may thrive. Professional jounalism as a whole may suffer in the transitions, but seems bound to thrive as rising levels of edcation create more and more demand for its product.


It looks like old Joe got it right w/ his theory or - constructive destruction.


As others have pointed out, why should anyone pay for a professional journalist when so many (myself included) work in/study the fields about which we write for little-to-no money? Sure, most MSM writers may be able to drown us with their poetic skills and such, but the chances of a say, WaPo "business" writer being able to describe complex issues/topics better than someone who does it for a living? Maybe in extreme lay-person's terms, but maybe that's the problem; many lay-people don't really give a crap!


Lets not forget the awful reporting the print media did during the Bush administration.

If the print media had done anything to help us avoid the war rather than colluding in its justification, that might have convinced me that they were important enough to our Democracy that they deserve special treatment.

As far as I'm concerned, print journalism isn't working anymore. It is not objective to parrot statements that objectively false. Opinions on the shape of the earth might differ, but that doesn't constitute justification for the media to allow itself to be manipulated.


Posner wants to make linking illegal, yet to leave a comment on his blog you have to supply a link.

He's bemoaning the death of newspapers with all the fervor of the dinosaurs who bemoaned the death of the buggy whip industry.

You are an old man with old ideas not suited for this new age.


Newspapers should report news but opinions and editorials. If that is efficiently done, that might bring a new leash of life in the old media.


Sorry. Over the years your bodies become walking autobiographies, telling friends and strangers alike of the minor and major stresses of your lives.
I am from Chile and also now teach English, please tell me right I wrote the following sentence: "If you; re renting a property or exchanging homes with another family this summer, your homeowners or renters insurance policy might provide some coverage for damage to the property where you; ll be staying."

Thank 8) Sive.




Newspapers will never end.

Perhaps in the future newspapers will be change nano-electronic papers :))




The real issue, as always, is not the format but the fate of professional journalism itself, as noted before. Surely we would not bemoan the death of the Town Crier as form of gainful employment?

And the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of local dailies barely qualify to put "professional" in their job title. The price signal is working- the amount of money that consumers are willing to pay for police blotters, obituaries, and poorly written local interest stories is very close to if not $0 (slightly more than zero because of advertising revenue). This is the economy working properly.

However, the best newspapers- The Economist (my personal favorite), The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, and yes, The New York Times- will always survive, because they report on national and international news with expertise and skilled writing. Consider that The Economist is seeing gains in subscriptions, and it is far from cheap as newspapers go. Consumers are still willing to pay for good writing on the important stories of the world.

The fact of the matter is that local news is irrelevant enough that it is not worth paying $.25 or $.50 per day for it- if the consumer is really interested in the local car chase of the week, he is more apt to turn in to a local news station anyway. This will spell the death of local dailies but mean little to high quality international reporting.

James G





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