[Marxism] Ramonet - The daily press is dying

Fred Fuentes fred.fuentes at gmail.com
Thu Oct 8 09:06:08 MDT 2009

 The daily press is dying
Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:55

By Ignacio Ramonet

Le Monde Diplomatique

The disaster is huge. Dozens of newspapers are bankrupt. In the United
States, no less than 120 papers have shut down. And the tsunami is now
striking Europe. Not even the former “newspapers of reference” are
safe. El País in Spain, Le Monde in France, The Times and The
Independent in the United Kingdom, Corriere della Sera and La
Repubblica in Italy, etc. All of them are experiencing heavy economic
losses, a collapse in distribution and a dizzying drop in advertising.

The prestigious New York Times had to ask for help from Mexican
millionaire Carlos Slim; the publishers of The Chicago Tribune and the
Los Angeles Times, as well as the Hearst Corporation, owner of The San
Francisco Chronicle, have gone bankrupt. The News Corporation, Rupert
Murdoch's powerful multimedia group, which publishes The Wall Street
Journal, has suffered annual losses of 2.5 billion euros.

To trim costs, many publications are reducing the number of their
pages. The Washington Post folded its prestigious literary supplement,
Bookworld; The Christian Science Monitor decided to end its newsprint
edition and exist only on the Internet; the Financial Times is asking
its staff to work three-day weeks and has drastically reduced its

The firings are massive. Since January 2008, 21,000 jobs have been
eliminated in U.S. newspapers. In Spain, “between June 2008 and April
2009, 2,221 journalists have lost their jobs.” (2)

The salaried press finds itself at the edge of the abyss and
desperately searches for formulas for survival. Some analysts believe
that that form of information is obsolete. Newser's Michael Wolf
predicts that 80 percent of the American newspapers will disappear.
(3) Even more pessimistic, Rupert Murdoch predicts that, within 10
years, all newspapers will cease to exist.

What is so lethally aggravating the decline of the daily press? One
current factor is the worldwide economic crisis, which is provoking a
drop in advertising and a restriction of credit. And, at the most
inopportune moment, that crisis has worsened the sector's structural
ills: the marketing of information, an addiction to advertising, a
loss of credibility, a drop in subscriptions, competition from the
free (unpaid) press, the aging of readers.

Add to this, in Latin America, the necessary democratic reforms
initiated by some governments (Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela)
against the “media empires” created by private groups in the form of
monopolies. And those reforms trigger a string of slander aimed at
those governments and their presidents from the leading and
disenchanted media and their usual accomplishes (in Spain, it is the
newspaper El País, which keeps railing against Prime Minister José
Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.) (4)

The daily press continues to practice an economic and industrial model
that doesn't work. The creation of large, international multimedia
groups that took place in the 1980s and ’90s no longer works. It has
been overtaken by the proliferation of the new modes of diffusion of
information and entertainment via the Internet or cell phones. (5)

Paradoxically, newspapers have never had a larger readership as they
do today. With the Internet, the number of readers has grown
exponentially. (6) But the newspapers' interfacing with the Web is
unfortunate, because it creates an injustice. It forces the newsprint
buyer to subsidize the computer user, who reads the online edition
(more extensive and entertaining) for free. And because advertising in
the Web version does not bring in enough revenue, since it is cheaper
than in the newsprint version. (7) Losses and profits don't balance.

Striking about like blind men, the newspapers search desperately for
formulas to deal with the hyperchange and survive. Following the
example of iTunes, some papers ask for minimal payment from their
readers to allow them exclusive access to the news online. (8) Murdoch
decided that, beginning in January 2010, he will demand payment for
every access to The Wall Street Journal through any technology,
including Blackberry or iPhone, Twitter or the Kindle electronic
reader. Google is looking for a recipe that will permit it to charge
for every reading of any digital newspaper, so as to revert a fraction
of that cost to the publishing house.

Will these Band-Aids be enough to save the terminal patient? Few
believe that (read Serge Halimi's article “The battle of Le Monde
Diplomatique”), because the most worrisome factor is added to all the
others: the collapse of credibility.

The current obsession of newspapers to be first with the news causes
them to multiply their mistakes. The demagogic request to
“reader-journalists” to upload to the newspaper's website their blogs,
photos or videos increases the risk of disseminating misinformation.
And defending the company's strategy as an editorial line (as the
leading newspapers do today) imposes a subjective, arbitrary and
partisan view of information.

Confronted by the new “capital sins” of journalism, citizens feel that
their rights have been violated. They know that having trustworthy and
quality information is more important now than ever before, for them
and for democracy. So they ask themselves: where can we find the
truth? Our regular readers know part of the answer: in the truly
independent and critical press – and, obviously, in the pages of Le
Monde Diplomatique.

Ignacio Ramonet is a journalist. From 1990 to 2008, he was editor of
Le Monde Diplomatique. He is co-founder of the nongovernmental
organization Media Watch Global , which he presides.


(1) Inés Hayes, “The world's main newspapers are bankrupt,” América
XXI, Caracas, April 2009.

(2) According to the Federation of Journalists' Associations of Spain,
Madrid, April 13, 2009.

(3) The Washington Post, April 21, 2009.

(4) About El País’ attacks against Zapatero, read Doreen Carvajal's
"El País in rare break with socialist leader", The New York Times,
Sept. 13, 2009. The Spanish version appears in  www.internautas.org/

(5) Luis Hernández Navarro, “The crisis of the printed press,” La
Jornada, México, March 3, 2009.

(6) Read the report : "Newspapers in Crisis":

(7) In 2008, The New York Times’ readership on the Internet was 10
times that of its printed version, but its advertising revenue from
the Web was one-tenth that of its printed version.

(8) Read: Gordon Crovitz, “The future of newspapers on the Internet,”
La Nación, Buenos Aires, Aug. 15, 2009.

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