If you ask people in the newspaper business, they will give you any number of reasons for the newspaper crisis. They will tell you that the business model is outdated. They will tell you about the downturn in the economy. They will tell you about the fragmenting of the advertising market. And so on. And so on.
However, if you ask someone who is not in the business, there’s a reasonable chance they will tell you that newspapers lost readers because of an inability to stay politically objective. Check out any story about a dying newspaper, and you are guaranteed to find many reader comments about how newspapers are no longer fair and no longer speak to all their readers.
Here is a reader, Douglas, making the point.
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My dad and I grew up reading the sports section. That is really the only section of a newspaper I care about. I would subscribe to a newspaper just for that section alone. I think a lot of people would.
But over the last year in particular, newspapers have shown they care less about their readers and more about advancing political ideals. My journalism teacher turned me onto the New York Times sports section, and said it had well-written features. And it did. I enjoyed reading what their sports writers had to say. Mind you, I was just reading this online, giving ad revenue to those sponsors via a hit on their Web page.
However, this past summer, when they failed to publish John McCain’s editorial without a “process” or whatever they called it, that was the last straw. I knew about their political leanings before, but this was it. I sent them a note, telling them why I would never visit their site again, and I have not gone back since. They can do with out my Web page hit.
This is my personal story, but nationwide, when a newspaper has an obvious political bias, it “writes their own death.” It isolates half the people in America along party lines. No one wants to pay for something they can get for free if it’s spewing propaganda. Instead, they’ll flock to ESPN.com or SI.com, or the blogosphere.
But if newspapers would drop the political act, and produce actual journalism, people may again pay for print services.
Like I said, I am into newspapers for their take on the local sports teams. I love sports. I also love politics. But I do not love when the two of them mix. When I am listening to Rush Limbaugh, I don’t want to hear what he thought about Sunday’s Steelers game. And when I am watching sports, I don’t want to hear about Barack Obama.
However, I fear that the “new media” is trending down the same path that newspapers went down. Now, when I get SI the magazine, I have to see a cover story with Obama titles “The Audacity of Hoops”. I threw that issue out without ever glancing inside the cover. And today on ESPN.com, I had to see a front page story about Obama’s bracket. I am not visiting them again today, and will try and use them less in the future.
Politics is a divisive issue, and the more newspapers, or sports outlets, try to be political, they are going to divide their readers/viewers. Journalism is dead. And that’s why newspapers are dying as well.