The Problem with Newspapers Isn’t the News….It’s the Paper.

Michael Rosenblum
3 min readJan 25, 2024
Image courtesy WikiCommons

The LA Times announced this week that they are going to lay off 115 staffers.

Workers at The NY Daily News are walking out today. They are “fed up with Alden Global Capital’s constant cuts.”

In the past decade, more than 2,000 local newspaper across the US have gone out of business.

The newspaper business, once the backbone of journalism in the US, and the foundation of a functioning democracy, is on the ropes. Or maybe it’s finished.

This is a very serious problem.

More and more of the country live in news deserts, often fed only by online and rather questionable social media ‘news’ sites. I was once a great proponent of ‘citizen journalism’. The citizen part is great. What is often lacking is the journalism. For that, we must depend upon professional journalists who are actually paid, and paid well, for their work.

Newspapers seem increasingly unable to do that.

There is a reason for that. As a nation; as a society, we no longer read.

The average American spends 8 hours a day watching TV or videos or movies and 19 minutes a day reading.

This is why newspapers are dying. No one reads.

I used to work with Metro, the free newspaper. The idea was that people would read it when they commuted on the train or subway. The revenue would come from advertising. The problem is that people no longer read on the train or metro. They look at their phones, and mostly they are watching videos on YouTube or TikTok. No readers, no advertisers — no advertisers, no income. No income, no newspaper.

So the problem is not with the news side, it’s with the paper side. Who says that The LA Times or The NY Daily News has to be printed on paper? Printing on paper is expensive, and the circulation is inherently self-limiting. If you want an additional reader, you need to print another paper — and that costs — paper, ink and physically putting the paper into the reader’s hands.

TV and video are cheap. Once you make it you can broadcast it everywhere at the same cost. And today, video news is also cheap to make. Got an iPhone? That’s all you need. Put that iPhone in the hands of an LA Times journalist — take away their paper and pencil — learn to work in a different medium, and you’re done.

But newspapers can’t bring themselves to do that. They are in love with writing, with the ink, with the paper, with the feel and the smell of the thing. I know. I was once the President of New York Times Television. I sold 51% of my company to Punch Sulzberger on the promise that I would create for him the video analog of the newspaper.

Shortly after we made the deal, I was invited to lunch in the NY Times Executive Dining Room by Joe Lelyveld, the highly revered Managing Editor of the paper.

“Congratulations,” he said, “and welcome to the paper.”

I was delighted.

“Just one thing,” he told me as they served the salmon and white wine, “you cannot use the name New York Times, or the reporters, or their work.”

Here I put my fork down. I had just made a deal based on all of that.

“How come?” I asked.

“Because I hate televison. I don’t even own one. And I will not have you sullying the name of this paper by putting it on TV. More wine?”

Joe Lelyveld died a last week. But it’s not too late for The LA Times or a dozen other papers. It’s not the news. It’s the medium on which it is delivered.

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Michael Rosenblum

Co-Founder TheVJ.com, Father of Videojournalism, trained 40,000+ VJs. Built VJ-driven networks worldwide. Video Revolution. Founder CurrentTV, NYTimes TV. etc..