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Can the Washington Post, and journalism, survive?

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I know it's fashionable on the left to bash the media. Not the same way the right bashes the media, however. I think it was Atrios (aka Duncan Black of Eschaton) who once described the difference between the left and right critique of the media. The right wants the media to lie, and the left wants the media to report the truth.

Our criticisms, when they pop up, are the false equivalencies that the media might create (e.g., the need to suggest that Democrats and Republicans are lying equally at any given moment, even if they're not). The right's criticism is that the media has exposed the truth about any particular right-wing cause of the day (global warming comes to mind). In a very basic way, the left wants to ensure that the media stays unbiased. The right wants the media dead.

Why dead? Because the media are the gate-keepers of the truth. Or at least they're supposed to be. And, as has been said before, facts tend to have a left-wing bias. Or perhaps more accurately, the right likes to lie a lot (e.g., death panels, the economy has gotten worse under Obama, the stimulus didn't work, Reagan cut taxes (he also raised them around a dozen times), tax cuts don't add to the deficit). And whose a lie's worst enemy? On a good day, it's the media.

So I don't like it when folks on the left disparage the media qua media. Hating them for who they are (which is what the right wing does), rather than being disappointed for who they might be if they did their job correctly.

That's a long way to lead in to a story in the NYT about how things aren't going so well at the Washington Post.

The Post faces the same problems as other daily newspapers, whose revenues have sunk as the Web and the tough economy have sapped advertising. But in some ways, its situation is even more daunting. Unlike most other papers with national aspirations, The Post serves a purely local print market, one that for decades had limited competition, and it has depended on local advertisers and subscribers who have since fled to the Web.

Though company managers say privately that The Post is modestly profitable, its newspaper division, which also includes a group of community papers and The Herald of Everett, Wash., reported an operating loss of nearly $26 million through the first three quarters of last year.
That has left the newspaper and the company’s other businesses exposed. The newsroom, once with more than 1,000 employees, now stands at less than 640 people, depleted by buyouts and staff defections. The newspaper’s Style section, once one of the most coveted assignments in American journalism, has shrunk from nearly 100 people to a quarter of that size. Bureaus in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are gone. There were so many Friday afternoon cake-cutting send-offs for departing employees last summer that editors had to coordinate them so they didn’t overlap.

“The survival of the institution is not guaranteed,” Mr. Kaiser said in an interview before the December lunch.
And it's not just the Post. Things are hard everywhere. Media, including the blogs, were hit hard by the recession, and the money just isn't come back. A lot of folks are hanging on tight, but at some point, we're going to lose even more newspapers, and blogs, than we have already. And I just have a hard time thinking that's a good thing.

I don't know if I'm just being nostalgic and trying to hold on to what was in the face of what is. Or maybe my fears are reasonable. I worry about the Republicans. They lie. A lot. And even though the media doesn't always do as good a job as it should holding the GOP responsible, things would be far worse without any media at all.

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