Linus, reporter

Howie Kurtz minced no words in today’s Washington Post writing about the state and fate of American newspapers:

Why a once-profitable industry suddenly seems as outmoded as America’s automakers is a tale that involves arrogance, mistakes, eroding trust and the rise of a digital world in which newspapers feel compelled to give away their content.

Neither did former SF Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein:

“Most of the wounds are self-inflicted,” says Phil Bronstein, editor at large of the San Francisco Chronicle, which Hearst Corp. has threatened to close unless major cost savings are achieved or a buyer is found. Rather than engage the audience, he says, “the public was seen as kind of messy and icky and not something you needed to get involved with.”

As the newsroom staff has shrunk from 575 when Bronstein took over as editor in 2000 to 275 now, “it’s objectively true that there’s less in the paper,” he says. “You can’t deny a loss is a loss.”

Neither did I:

“Years ago,” says Jeff Jarvis, a blogger who has worked for the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Examiner and the New York Daily News, “why didn’t we take more aggressive action and use the power of our megaphone to promote the product and change the organization?” The answer is that newspapers were “a cash cow,” he says. “We thought too much about trying to preserve what we had.” . . .

Some newspaper executives say Google is eating their lunch by appropriating their content. But Jarvis, author of the book “What Would Google Do?,” says the software giant is adding to newspapers’ value by linking to their stories. “Google is the new newsstand,” he says.

Jarvis, who now reads the New York Times on a Kindle electronic device during his subway commute, says print publications are the past. “Paper has become the comfort blanket for newspeople, and it’s time to snatch the blanket out of the kids’ hands,” he said.