The Demise of Ink?

I’ve been something of a news junkie all my life. Even when I was in high school I signed up for journalism class and was editorialist for my school newspaper, not that I knew what I was doing of course. But it was a start. Then, when I was a plebe at the Naval Academy I, like others of my class, was assigned by the seniors at my mess table to provide a quick synopsis (from memory) of the headline news from the Washington Post or the Boston Globe every morning at breakfast. There was no CNN then (nor TV sets in the rooms either). We plebes were CNN, we just didn’t know it. It was a odd way to gain an interest, but it worked. Probably improved my reading speed too, as you might imagine.

BGThus it was with some interest that I read of the discounted sale of the venerable Boston Globe in this morning’s online news. Twenty years ago it was bought for over a billion dollars and now is being sold to a private billionaire investor for a mere $70 million. This is sad, but of course it’s consistent with the digital times we live in. The Globe’s circulation was a half million in the ’90’s, but of course it has fallen off the cliff since. However, it’s reported that their online subscriptions have now helped it recover to about half that. I think that is the way journalism is going now – a very few large news organizations doing the real reporting and smaller ones struggling to create interest in local news and getting their main income from being conveyers of ads.

That’s what our local paper is doing. The Joplin Globe only occasionally puts a national item on the front page.  One friend of mine described it as devolving to “The Big Nickel with obits”, the Big Nickel being a free, classified-only rag which I’m not even sure is being published anymore.  I recently sold an electronic item using the online service, craigslist, instead of a newspaper ad and it went smooth as silk. The ad was free, insertion of a photo was a snap, and Craigslist provided online anonymity by relaying email communications. Craigslist for selling mere items is free.  They only charge for job and housing ads it seems, and sorting is also very easy. There’s no way newspapers can compete with that.

nboyI still subscribe to USA Today. Some find its articles too short, but I think it’s just right, and I consider their journalistic and editorial standards outstanding. There’s lots of national and international news every day and it provides as much as I’m inclined to absorb, sometimes more. Plus I (compulsively) must have my daily sudoku and crossword fix. And I still must have the Joplin Globe. How else will I know who died?

About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Democratic.
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12 Responses to The Demise of Ink?

  1. middlechildwoman says:

    My Joplin Globe was soaked this morning even though it had been in a knotted, thin plastic bag. So I went to my iPad to read it on the News Memory(?) app. Not the same experience, especially with my puzzles. The obits are important and the crime section is eye- opening. I count on Brian Williams and Saint Rachel for what is happening outside of our little bubble. Love your reflections.


    • Jim Wheeler says:

      My experiences with wet papers are as yours, MCW. If they simply laid them on the driveway instead of slinging, the plastic wouldn’t tear, but speed and volume obviously trump quality in that occupation. What’s more useless and disgusting than a wet newspaper, eh? I also agree about reading the paper online – just not as convenient. And my iMac can’t do puzzles online at all – maybe it’s my browser. Finally, I sure agree about the crime items. My cynicism made me omit that from the post, but you’re right on – we sure have our share. (Don’t you just love dumb-criminal stories?)


  2. PiedType says:

    I hadn’t heard about the Boston Globe sale. Another nail in the coffin of print journalism. So sad to think the field I worked in all my adult life may be dead before I am. 😦


  3. ansonburlingame says:


    Of late I have started watching CBS This Moringing, primarily because I like Charlie Rose. The World in 90 Seconds is a hallmark of that broadcast, yet …….. How can anyone consider “the world” in only 90 secs? But that is what TV news does to or for us!!! Even when they go “in depth” it is MAYBE a 3 minute clip with an “expert”!!

    Thus, after a brief review of CBS This Morning, I go to my Globe, of the Joplin sort. It takes about 5 minutes to read it, including the sports page on a given day. OK, may 10 minutes as I always read the opinion pages of the Joplin Globe to see what is being considered and by whom.

    Then I go to my computer and scan the Washington Post, online. That may take 15 minutes or longer, depending on what is found therein. On some occassions such reviews will prompt a blog on my part with a link to the WP.

    Only then do I routinely go to the blogs, locally. I start with my own, to read any comments and almost always construct a reply thereto. THAT gets into the nitty gritty to some degree of a particular issue and it makes me think, for sure. Then I go to Geoff’s, your blog and the EC’s, almost every day to find what is brewing in the world of conservatives and progressives.

    Bottom line, is I may spend 30 minutes with “media” stuff, both on real newsprint and online. But the “depth” of my political thinking usually is found in four blogs, my own, Geoff’s, yours and the EC.

    A “normal” morning for this “retired” individual (thus with the time and interest to do so) results is maybe a couple of hours or more, delving into some political issues in detail and thinking about such matters. Someday’s my interest is so peaked that I have to rely on my wife telling me to get off the damn computer and do something constructive with the rest of my day!!!

    One other source now is used as well, at least by me. Last year I audited a course in Macro-Economics at MSSU and you saw the results in both my blog and comments on others. This coming semester I am taking an Intro to Sociology, an academic issue never before studied by me.



    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Indeed, Anson, your comments raise an important point, that despite the changing formats and business models of journalism there is probably more quality information of all kinds available to the average citizen than ever before, and it is all testable because of the internet and the ubiquity of digital photography. The clips of the Spanish train wreck and of the Venice Beach vehicular homicide run come to mind – amazing. One might be concerned that by shrinking in number and growing in size, real news sources might become vulnerable to bias, but I don’t see that happening now. The real danger, I submit, is public over-reaction because of the immediacy of news and a tendency to avoid detail.

      There is one source of information you didn’t mention that I have come to like in the last year or so, pod-casts on National Public Radio. I down-load them each week day and listen to them at the Y. Some might disdain them, thinking they are of a liberal bent but I find them really quite balanced and not at all polemic. My favorites are Planet Money (economics), Stuff You Should Know (a wild olio of topics which two smart guys research in depth and then discuss), and NPR Topics, Story of the Day. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping with so much information on my brain.

      You had best be very wary of your course on sociology – that field is known as a veritable nest of liberalism. 😉


  4. ansonburlingame says:

    I listen to NPR only when driving on relatively long trips. We both left out Public TV of the non-political sort as well. Such docurmentaries are rather shallow, even when an hour or more in length, in my view, but they sometimes spur my interest to “go read a book” on such subjects. All in all, reading remains my ultimate source of information, not visual things like movies and TV of any sort. Simply because of our shared NAVY experience, you might find my latest blog of some interest, spurred. by my reading of a current Clancy book.

    As for polarization of views, focusing only on one’s already established view point and searching for similar views, on TV, books, news media, etc. it is easier to do so today than ever before.

    As for my upcoming quest to learn about Sociology, well I have a deep seated view that in fact it is a liberal tool, by and large. But as with my past study of Macro Economics, I will focuse exclusively trying to learn the SCIENCE of that subject, not the “art”. Actually I feel sorry for the professor of that class. I will not raise hell in class itself, but I WILL flood her with emails challenging all sorts of “stuff” if she tries to inject “art” into that course of academic study!!! That is one huge advantage of auditng a college course. One can focus on portions of the subject of interest and not worry about flunking a course. As well, by decree, I lhave unfettered access to the professor during the course of study. She may not like my questions but as a professor she must answer them in some fashion, unless I really get ridiculous, which I will not do.

    I can already anticipate one question for her sometime in the course. “How does she KNOW that income disparity is a HUGE problem in America?” Show me the science to “prove it” will probably be my challenge to her, an admitted already, left of center voter!!!



    • Jim Wheeler says:

      From your former comment I actually thought you might be mellowing. Silly me. Clearly you still approach education ideologically and combatively. You even challenge the problem of income disparity, something that is a matter of no scientific dispute at all. (I will not try to distract you with “links” which you would ignore anyway.) But of course, you would be right that income disparity is not a “problem” if only the little people would accept their place in the food chain, realize that job benefits are a thing of the past and stop complaining about it all. I hear that 250 square foot apartments are really quite tolerable these days.


    • Anson,
      Threatening to flood the instructor with emails if she does not satisfy your biased opinions — opinions about an academic discipline that you admittedly know nothing about — already qualifies as ridiculous.

      I would not abuse “unfettered access by decree” (whatever that means). Oddly enough, students paying for the class might actually be interested in sociology.


  5. Jim Wheeler says:

    Update on “Demise of Ink?”: The Washington Post has also been sold – to billionaire Jeff Bezos of fame. It went for about three times the price of the Boston Globe, but that’s still well down from newspapers’ heyday of course. This trend raises an interesting question for me in the context of this post. Does it bode ill that such venerable enterprises are now being bought by people who, having made their fortunes elsewhere, might be inclined to treat these papers as political hobbies? Bezos of course denies any such intentions but then we do have the Rupert Murdoch as a recent example. Consider this from the Wikipedia page on the WSJ:

    A 2007 Journal article quoted charges that Murdoch had made and broken similar promises in the past. One large shareholder commented that Murdoch has long “expressed his personal, political and business biases through his newspapers and television stations.” Former Times assistant editor Fred Emery remembers an incident when “Mr. Murdoch called him into his office in March 1982 and said he was considering firing Times editor Harold Evans. Mr. Emery says he reminded Mr. Murdoch of his promise that editors couldn’t be fired without the independent directors’ approval. ‘God, you don’t take all that seriously, do you?’ Mr. Murdoch answered, according to Mr. Emery.” Murdoch eventually forced out Evans.


  6. ansonburlingame says:

    First, a reply to both McNight and Jim on my “bias” in seeking further education. Baloney I say.

    I learned a long time ago that science is the most exacting part of education. Learn how things work scientifically and THEN start to form opinions about issues. Take the subject of radioactivity. I submit that based on both long education and experience I know more about the science of that subject that almost any commenters on these local blogs. Based on that SCIENCE I then form my own opinons about such matters as the Japanese Nuclear issues of a couple of years ago. Bottom line is there was little or no danger to America from that nuclear reactor series of accidents. But don’t try to tell breast feeding mothers in CA that information or some “doctor” that wants to abolish nuclear power to create electricity, or some nut in Nevada that does not want Yucca Mtn in his “backyard”.

    ALL of my questions, submitted mostly by email to my former Econ Prof were well received and answered to the best of his ability. Almost ALL of my questions were related to the SCIENCE of economics, trying to learn with some precision HOW to calculate such things as unemployment rate, GDP, Real GDP (which I had never heard of before the course), etc. By and large that Prof did NOT get into the “art” of economics.

    He taught the scientific rational of Keynesian economics as well as “traditional” or Classical Economics. He did NOT try to justify one over the other. “A” says this and “B” says that, now make up your own mind who to believe was his approach. THAT is great teaching in my view.

    A typical test question would be to state a problem, “the unemplloyment rate is….”. How would a Keynesian economist resolve that problem would be one question. How would a Classical economist do so would be another question, maybe. Never would a test ask “which one is a better solution”.

    I suspect the Sociology Prof will do the same thing. It is after all simply an Introduction to Sociology, not a biased political approach to that subject, I hope. I expect she will teach the building blocks, the underlying math and science to construct Sociological theories and NOT get into which theories are better than others. I have no idea, yet, what all the theories might be. But I hope to find out a lot more on that subject and most important the underlying thinking of how any theories in that subject are constructed, scientifically.

    Another point along the same lines. I have been deeply interested in problems associated with education ever since I started (actually long before) writing publicly. I have been in high school and middle school classrooms (public and private schools) trying to teach. Now I have been in actual college classrooms (after a 50 year hiatus from same) trying to learn. I have seen issues up front and personally in doing so and then formed opinions about the problems in such matters. I did not just read a blog and launch if you will.

    As for Income Distribution, I noted that ZERO teaching on that subject was involved in a college class on economics, pure ZERO. And yet progressives scream about that one matter all the time. I have yet to hear any scientifically established theory on why income distribution is “bad” (or good for that matter). All I hear, politically, is we must “fix it”. HOW and WHY are my responses, politically. Then I get a string of anectodotes back in my face like pregnant women giving birth on the doorsteps of hospitals, for crying out loud!!!

    Jim, as for the sale of major newspapers, well I drove passed the Joplin Globe building a day ago. I wonder how long that newspaper will survive in today’s world. I suspect the Globe and many others are in BIG financial trouble for sure. I hate to see such happening but have no magic wand solutions to offer either. All I can do now is submit what hopefully are interesting letters or comments from time to time to spur local interest in a local and important institution.



    • Juan Don says:

      You wrote, “I have a deep seated view that in fact it [Sociology] is a liberal tool, by and large.” That does not sound like someone who is has unbiased view, now does it? Drawing this conclusion without prior exposure to the discipline is no surprise given your lengthy history of “launching” preconceived notions-as-comment. No one, certainly not me, is suggesting you have a bias against higher education, only an expressed impartiality about the political leanings of a specific academic field of study.

      Sociology combines both empirical data and critical analysis to reach conclusions; it is not an exact science. If certainty is what you seek, I suggest classes in chemistry or mathematics. The chemical formula for water is immune to a professor’s political affiliation.


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