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.”


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.”