Newspaper troubles (again)

While Mick toils manfully in the booming blogosphere, I get more and more worried about newspapers. In the UK and Ireland, crisis point hasn’t yet been reached. But in the US, it’s arrived. The fine old Christian Science Monitor (its quality belied its title) has just folded, I’m shocked to learn. Johann Hari in the beleaguered Indy is right.

If (newspapers) vanish, blogs will be left in an airless cabin, talking only about themselves.

Hari steers clear of washing his own group’s dirty linen and draws attention to the medium-term plight of the business’s Titanic, the New York Times. What are the survival strategies, if any?

From Johann Hari.

Many people in the increasingly frantic newspaper industry whisper about potential techno-solutions. Some say an easy system of online micro-payments – an i-Tunes for the news – will save us. Others invest hope in the Kindle, the hand-held device on which you can buy a newspaper. But we can’t afford to wait for them to go mainstream: journalism’s accumulated structures, brands and wisdom could be lost forever by then.

There is a better way. In an age of bailouts, several European governments are experimenting with ways to support the world of news-gathering so it will survive for the 21st century. The best plan has come from French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He has launched a programme where every French citizen, on her 18th birthday, will be given a year’s free subscription to a newspaper of her choice.

I’m sceptical about these panaceas. Hari is a young guy who is pretty anti-commerce. Yet the obvious route is amalgamation with the IT giants of capitalism Microsoft have spluttered denials about taking over the New York Times.. Not so long ago, the NYT could have bought Google. Maybe the roles will be reversed and Google will take over the NYT?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London