Thursday, May 14, 2009

Baloney. The San Diego Union-Tribune's woes are due to its "tilt" to the right?


** On May 7, 2009, columnist Arthur Salm of the San Diego News Network (an online news website made up of many former writers of the San Diego Union-Tribune) -- suggested that the Union-Tribune's conservative political stripes -- are in part responsible for its current woes.

** In my view, this is negative wishful supposition, the product of conspiratorial minds which apparently still exist -- amid a supposedly new era of post-partisanship being pushed by the mainstream media -- and -- a 2009 reality that shows the American political landscape in the hands of a Democratic Party at the height of its greatest power and influence since 1964.

** Casting the San Diego Union-Tribune's troubles with a political spin represents a dismissal of what’s going on at every major newspaper in the United States -- and errantly puts a sanctimonious moral compass in the middle of a red vs. blue battle -- that's less relevant given the Democratic Party's margin of victory in the November 2008 elections.

** Simply put, advertising dollars and readers have fled from newspapers, not because of political slants — but because all of us are reading these very words. Readers have fled to the web to get information with greater immediacy and timeliness. And advertisers have fled to the web to reach those readers -- (or more likely just sitting on the sidelines, waiting out the recession).

** As noted previously, the latest numbers from the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) show that 24 of the nation’s top 25 newspapers by circulation -- took a subscriber bath from March 2008 to March 2009 — with revenues down accordingly. (The only paper reporting an “uptick” in subscribers, though not corresponding profits, was the Wall Street Journal.)

** While I have no horse in this race (I have never been on the U-T payroll) -- it is my strong belief that the Union-Tribune will survive — as a one-horse broadsheet amid competing outlets, e.g., The San Diego Daily Transcript, The San Diego Business Journal, San Diego News Network and the The Voice of San Diego — as it continues to accommodate the reality that electronically disseminated content -- is the PREFERRED “first choice” method for readers to stay on top of breaking news. The print edition of the U-T should and will serve as a supplement that provides greater in-depth coverage and analysis -- accompanied by a mix of mildly undated features.

** But any attempt to "baseline" arguments about the U-T’s decline on: 1) a refusal to shift accordingly to the region’s changing POLITICAL demographics and, 2) newsroom mis-management — despite the poor performance of metropolitan dailies nationwide that do NOT face #1 or #2 above — is at best, naive -- or at worst, misleading.

** Columns like those published in the San Diego News Network -- preach to a choir of news junkies who want villains for every story, especially if they adversely impact people we know. I’m pals with many fabulous U-T reporters and editors, past and present -- and in my view, it’s a high-hatting insult to all of them -- to suggest their paper's troubles are fundamentally rooted in misguided political ideology or poor newsroom leadership.

** Get out of your offices — and you’ll find your next door neighbor isn't reading the daily newspaper for reasons altogether different that those being batted about by "newspaper insiders." Embracing hare-brained political and editorial conspiracies at the U-T may make some people feel better, but it’s a fleeting feeling. Moreover, it isn't a solution to the very real problems newspapers face today.

** In my view, because the economic performance of web-based advertising at online news sites has been spotty at best -- my greater hope is that a business model can be found -- in the face of greater competition -- that can support an electronic news enterprise that's 30-50% as lucrative as the print side was during the boom years of newspaperdom.

** In sum, we'll always need San Diego-based writers, columnists, editors and photographers. We’ll just get them in a different way.

(Original material © 2009 by David Kusumoto.)

No comments:

Post a Comment