The print news media is in serious trouble and it appears
doomed. That media depends on advertising for economic survival. Indeed, as
James Fallows writes in the June issue of the Atlantic Monthly, “The typical
newspaper costs much more to print and deliver than a subscriber pays.” But the
newspaper has become a much less important vehicle for advertising (think about
Craig’s List, E-Bay, Zilla, and Travelocity), and circulation has declined for
many reasons. One significant reason is the availability of news for free on the
internet. It seems clear that with few exceptions (e.g., the New York Times and
the Wall Street Journal), the future of the news is not in print, but on the
internet read through kindle, an ipad, or some contraption we have yet to see.
Herbert Gans in the spring issue of Daedalus (pdf available here) finds one bright light amidst the gloom. He notes that the capitalist press has focused its watchdog function on the government and not on business (except when scandals too large to ignore appear). The business section helps investors, but it does not ordinarily keep track of the lobbying interaction between businesses and politicians. In the wake of the Court’s embrace of the view that artificial persons have the same rights as natural persons, in my view, the need for reporting on political economy is more important than ever. Gans thinks that the news will be supported less by advertisers and more by foundations. If so, he suggests that there will be more room for political economy reporting. We’ll see.