It’s refreshing to read some reasoned thinking about the future of newspapers that does not come from
Newspaper executives whose cheerleading about how they will survive — somehow — gets undercut by reporting a 30 percent drop in profits one quarter later, or
Internet Cassandras who want newspapers to burn and die because they hate editors who get precious about how the calling of journalism trumps the rules of free markets and (more typically) because they hold dear the tradition of thinking that newspapers only print lies.
The Financial Times is the bearer of these encouraging if cautionary words in an editorial that it ran on Tuesday:
There are legitimate concerns about the disappearance of general papers. The best dig up stories and provide coverage of local, national and foreign news that enlightens readers and citizens. It is easy to undervalue such news when it has been plentiful for decades, but society would feel its absence.
Perhaps some of the reporting done up to now by for-profit papers will in future be funded by foundations or trusts. But the industry should not lose faith in the free market. When people really want or need something, they will pay for it, one way or another. If today’s publishers cannot convince their readers to do so, they will be overtaken by others that can.
The FT is not saying that all newspapers have a future; it’s saying that the ones that don’t waste your time will survive because you will pay for them. To be sure, there is news that we want to know and news that we need to know (whether he want to or not). The question is: how many of our papers provide that? We would enjoy getting your response.