Our newspapers are dying and nothing can save them, sad for my generation for whom they’re an indispensable habit.
As an avid newspaper devotee, I’ve finally come to terms with this after reading the Guardian’s famous editor Alan Rushbridger’s excellent 2018 book “Breaking News”.
Rushbridger recounts how he, a died-in the wool newspaper man, bewildered by newspapers seemingly overnight collapse, also came to terms with the new reality. I found it therapeutic.
The foreign owners of our two major newspapers, the Herald and the Dominion-Post are desperate to sell. I suspect, applying our standard office building purchase approach, namely a cash settlement next week, could see the Herald bought for $30m and the Dom’-Post for even less.
If they’re smart, they’d grab the money and run for the coming depression will soon mark their value down to nil, certainly within 2 years. At that stage they’ll pull stumps and end it all.
Currently they’re petitioning the government to allow their amalgamation as one company.
I wrote in support of this in National Business Review about 3 years ago. It was rejected on stupid anti-monopolistic grounds, namely destroying competing viewpoints.
Both papers constantly present different viewpoints on issues. Today’s Dominion for example has a half-page editorial in support of Simon Bridges, currently under attack, for doing his Opposition leader’s role, namely questioning the government’s strategy on the health crisis.
But the top half has a cartoon by one of its two cartoonists, ridiculing Bridges for the same reason.
Mind you, ever since Tom Scott retired the Dom’ has struggled on this front. Its current two cartoonists are arguably the worst in history. They’re bold illustrators but have neither humour nor relevance and despoil the paper. Better to have none if they’re the only option.
But back to the monopoly issue. At the time of their fool-hardy rejection the monopolies mob ignored the salient point that the option was not one or two newspapers but one or none.
Would a single national newspaper survive? Possibly there’s a market for a serious nation-wide one of at best 50,000 sales. But recent history says it would leak circulation each year, as its readership dies off.
So here’s a tip. When something momentous occurs, while they still exist, store that newspaper away. In 30 years it will have considerable antiquity value for your grandchildren, as with coins and postage stamps, similarly disappearing in the new tech age.
POSTSCRIPT: The government has now announced a $50m grant to help the media industry through the economic catastrophe (its excessive response to the virus is largely responsible for). Most is going to the electronic media. The newspapers will be dismayed but there’s no point having taxpayers fund zombie activities.