Tag Archives: economy

Journalism reality check

Layoffs are never nice; financial pressure is hard for any company in any field. But I think Pat Thornton’s sense of scale is just a little skewed when he writes:

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: Journalism is under fire right now, much more so than just about any other industry in America. More than a thousand jobs have already been cut this year from mainstream media organizations and thousands more will be in the coming months. It’s a very dark hour for journalism.

Tell that to the auto, mortgage/housing/banking, and manufacturing industries. As I pointed out in this post,

Ford lost $2.7 billion in 2007 and $12.6 billion the year before — and those aren’t just losses in market capitalization (that was probably a heck of a lot more), but $15 billion in actual money down the drain. Think they wouldn’t kill for that 21 percent margin [Gannett’s 2007 margin]? (Their 2007 margin: minus-6.8 percent.)

The mortgage industry lost 14,000 jobs in the first three months of the year. Subprime mortgage losses have cost insurers $38 billion so far. Banks, brokers, and insurers could end up writing down $285 billion in subprime losses (writedowns have already reached $150 billion).

Dell just closed a Texas plant, costing 900 people their jobs (of the at least 8,800 people the company plans to fire, some will surely be in the United States). Motorola has laid off 10,000 people in the past year (though again, not sure how much of the total is American workers). In the U.S. manufacturing sector overall, 67,000 people were laid off in February.

Yes, these industries are all much bigger than the news media. But let’s keep a sense of perspective here. As Chris Anderson notes, the newspaper industry is “a $45 billion business, which is twice as big as Google and Yahoo combined.” Times are tough, but the apocalypse is still a ways off. Operating with a clear-eyed view of the situation, rather than panicking and overstating newspapers’ very real problems, is the best chance we have at keeping the end times at bay.

(All that being said, I actually agree with much of Thornton’s advice for would-be journalists.)

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David Broder’s meaningless centrism

Washington Post columnist David Broder is at this point basically a joke among serious political writers and bloggers. To them, he represents the pointlessness and shallowness of a certain kind of mainstream newspaper political coverage: A mindset that fetishizes objectivity and even-handedness to the point of prizing, above all else, “bipartisanship” for the sake of bipartisanship regardless of the policies involved.

According to this mindset, the havoc wreaked by tax cuts, cronyism, and Republicans’ turning K Street into another arm of government were not the result of deliberate policies and practices by one party, but rather occurred because of “partisan gridlock,” because “Washington is broken.” Thus bipartisan action is always good, regardless of whether the legislation produced by such action is sound. (The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait is one of the best critics of this view, and his book The Big Con is a must-read for anyone interested in this sort of thing.)

Broder’s column Thursday about the recently enacted economic stimulus package is an almost comically perfect example of this shallow strain of argument. Continue reading