There is no newspapers

I’ve been saying those words in person to people a lot lately:

“There is no newspapers.”

What’s it mean?

It means that if you’re in the business of publishing pronouncements, predictions, prayers, analysis, criticism, or full on takedowns related to the current state of the newspaper industry, please understand that despite the convenience it would provide for said ruminations, there is no such thing as a monolithic, uniform entity called “newspapers.”

Really.

In my relatively short career, connected in one way or another to a wide variety of newspapers, I’ve already been involved with organizations staffed by crews of 1, 3, 10, 30, 100, 300, and 1,000 — and they’re owned by individuals, universities, nonprofits, corporations, communities, investment bankers, media moguls, local collectives — and the communities they serve have just as wide a variety of needs, wants, economies, sizes, shapes, colors, and creeds.

So the next time you’re about to use a phrase like “newspapers should…” or “newspapers have to…” or “newspapers can’t…” — I’d like you to stop for a moment and focus your decree a little more specifically.

Are you talking about the New York Times or are you talking about the Detroit News? Are you talking about the Denver Post or are you talking about the Holland Sentinel? Are you talking about El Pais or are you talking about El Nuevo Herald?

Are you talking about an imaginary entity where every piece of the puzzle is a uniformly shaped block, or are you talking about an incredibly diverse mass of publications that includes everything from shoppers to weeklies to alternative weeklies to the tiniest of dailies to major metros to national newspapers read all over the world?

Directly related: 10 little white lies you hear about the future of newspapers

Obviously: I’ve been guilty of this, myself, right here, although it’s been some time since my last “newspapers should.”

5 Replies to “There is no newspapers”

  1. Organizations staffed by crews of 1, 3, and 10, sure. But NEWSPAPERS staffed by crews of 1, 3, and 10? I guess it could happen.

    But I wonder if you’re not starting to fall into the “it’s a lot more complicated than you think” trap that so many newspaper people fall into, when it just really is not THAT complicated?

    I also wonder what you think about all of this?

    Also, I wonder what will happen to this comment — left on your blog — among the 23 1-click re-tweets that apparently it will have to compete with?

  2. @Alesh –

    Last things first, yeah the RT comments are increasingly silly when nothing’s added to the RT. I’ve got a switch I can flip to turn those off, while still bringing in the tweets that are more than just a button-pushing exercise. And I will.

    Newspapers staffed of 1, 3, and 10? Absolutely. At a previous job, I worked for a company that owned hundreds of dailies and weeklies, and there was a staff of 1 behind a twice-weekly in a town of about 7,000 in Missouri, staffs of 3 all over the place in slightly larger towns, and 10 — well, 10 is a big staff by those standards!

    Re: Complicated: I think the assumption I’m railing against here is that all newspapers are somehow in the exact same boat going in the same direction, and the same evasive actions will somehow keep them from sinking when they hit the miles-wide glacier that they’re already well on top of.

    Here’s me in a similar rant about 9 months ago.

  3. Well, that’s cool. I’m not sure how a newspaper with a staff of 3 would work, but I’m glad to hear that it can be done.

    … Ok, I just deleted a whole bunch of stuff I typed because it was simplistic and obvious. I’ll be back when I have something more intelligent to say.

    Keep fighting the good fight!

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