Internet Overtakes Newspapers as News Source

January 2, 2009

How did I miss this one from December 23rd? Mea maxima culpa! (From the Latin: “My most grievous fault.”)

The source is most reputable: The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

The news about the news continues its discouraging trend. This one ranks as a milestone. According to the press release:

“The internet…has now surpassed all other media except television as an outlet for national and international news….For the first time in a Pew survey, more people say they rely mostly on the internet for news [40%] than cite newspapers (35%). Television continues to be cited most frequently as a main source for national and international news, at 70%.”

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If that doesn’t get you down, try this: “For young people, however, the internet now rivals television as a main source of national and international news. Nearly six-in-ten Americans younger than 30 (59%) say they get most of their national and international news online; an identical percentage cites television. In September 2007, twice as many young people said they relied mostly on television for news than mentioned the internet (68% vs. 34%).”

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Well I guess they was warned! And based on the continuing river of despondency and desperation from news organizations, I don’t imagine that we’re not going to see a change any time soon. And, I must now admit, perhaps never.

My naysaying, dancing-on-the grave-type friends and colleagues point out that the chicken is only coming home to roost. Newspapers, during the many heady years that preceded this shakeout, developed some deplorable business practices. But there was enough cash in the coffer that they could do just about whatever they pleased.

It was Roy Thomson, the founder of the Thomson publishing empire (now in the hands of his grandson) who first described television as “a license to print money.” A press baron also, he knew well how money was printed.

A popular Web site is the new license for printing money (although not for all). And newspaper owners failed to get on the bandwagon in time to obtain their licenses.

I feel sympathy for the owners and managers: are any of us so clever that we would have done much better? I feel great sorrow for the ever-increasing ranks of reporters, lower-level managers and production personnel who must bear the brunt of this downturn. But of course, as the newspapers remind us each day, in print and online, those workers are not alone.

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