Patterico's Pontifications


Why is Newspaper Circulation Down?

Filed under: Media Bias — DRJ @ 7:14 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Last week, Patterico posted a chart that shows a significant decline in newspaper circulation over the past 20 years. A recent Rasmussen poll suggests a reason for some of the decline:

“A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 85% of U.S. voters trust their own judgment more than the average reporter when it comes to the important issues affecting the nation. Only four percent (4%) trust the average reporter more. Eleven percent (11%) aren’t sure.”

One reason people don’t trust reporters is that, when it comes to elections, they believe reporters try to slant the news to fit their political goals:

“Two-out-of-three voters (67%) say most reporters when covering a political campaign try to help the candidate they want to win. Just 21% say most reporters try to offer unbiased coverage. These findings are identical to those found throughout last fall’s presidential campaign.

Just before last November’s election, for example, 68% of voters said most reporters try to help the candidate they want to win, and 51% believed they were trying to help Democrat Barack Obama. Just seven percent (7%) thought they were trying to help his Republican opponent, John McCain.”

However, 43% of Americans view journalists favorably. This result seems inconsistent but it reminds me of polls that show people don’t generally like lawyers or members of Congress, but they nevertheless like their lawyer or Congressman.


42 Responses to “Why is Newspaper Circulation Down?”

  1. I think journalists are inferior people, as a class. I’d be embarrassed to have a journalist in my family to where I wouldn’t tell anyone I’d just say I think they’re in real estate I’m not really sure.

    happyfeet (f62c43)

  2. happyfeet,
    There has to be a career option for those who don’t qualify as used-car salesmen.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  3. I know reporters and editors slant the news and the stories they report on to get their desired results.

    The worst reporter for this is Chris Knap of the Santa Ana Register, followed by Jean O Pasco formerly of the Register, but now with the LASlimes.

    You want to see real proof of this slanting. Do a search for Register stories concering the Recall of Doris Allen. The Register did an indepth poll using a skewed population to question, and when I called them on it, the editor claimed that he wasn’t trying to influence the election just show how it should come out, ALLEN STAYING IN OFFICE.

    PCD (eea3de)

  4. PCD,
    As you may know, Chris Knap blew the OC bankruptcy story. He was pretty blatantly cheerleading for Citron and dissing Moorlach.

    Mike K. can tell you about how the Reg has pulled back from actual coverage of communities in favor of playing footsie with the local pols.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  5. There are a few journalists that are not embarassingly bad people, like Brother Bradley, and the local weather person who is the mother of K’s good friend 😉

    The home plate umpire in Game 4 is embarassingly bad.

    JD (c8f5e6)

  6. oh. I didn’t know Mr. Bradley was a journalist but that’s why I said as a class… I try not to hurt Mr. mcgruder’s feelings is why I say it like that even though I think he probably understands

    happyfeet (f62c43)

  7. Footsie, Bradley is one of those evil journalists and he’ll admit jounalists are evil. 😉 Just like EB is one of those “if you can’t do, teach” type people. They are the exceptions that make the rule. And the rule “all lawyers are bad” has a couple exceptions here that make that rule, too.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  8. No worries, happyfeet.

    There is far too much truth in what you said — and I’ve seen horrendous examples of bias and ignorance in the press. I’ve pointed out a lot myself. In another thread, I cited David Lazarus, the LA Times’ “consumer” columnist, as as a prime example. And there is an open movement among journalists to get rid of any attempt at fairness, by simply declaring that leftist values are just ethical journalism.

    This debasement of journalism has to contribute to the decline in newspaper circulation. Why pay money to be misinformed?

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  9. And the Arizona Republic this weekend actually tried to claim that circulation was up in an ad in their Valley and State section. Just shameless

    Gazzer (3bd236)

  10. As much as I’d like to blame the drop in circulation on biased reporting, such was going on all along, when circulation was high.

    The real problem is that newspapers are eighteenth century technology. Every story in the paper is several hours old, just in the time it takes to get the paper printed and delivered. If you want current news, you use the internet.

    I usually pick up a dead trees edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer on my way to work, but that is for the benefit of the other men, not me. I can read the Inquirer online, for free, rather than the 75¢ the paper costs; if it was just for me, I wouldn’t spend the money.

    Newspaper readers are an increasingly aging demographic; the younger you are, the more likely you are to get the news directly off the internet. This is not a cycle which can be reversed.

    The economist Dana (474dfc)

  11. I will agree with the tech claims concrete-busted Dana makes as an overall factor in the decline, but agenda-driven media (not biased) has contributed to the decline.

    Of course, tech means agenda-driven has competition they did not expect, which puts out the other side. And that leads to the steeper declines, the fact their agenda is countered in a way they cannot control. But, like a lot of people where I work (as a temp), I arrive half hour early. The time I don’t spend outside listening in on convos, I spend inside reading week-old dead tree material until it’s time to go to work.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  12. Journalists are just regular people, some with families, many adrift.

    They think they know a few things, usually they don’t. And they do a thankless job.

    But, what’s really weird to me is that the most clueless, the most uneducated, the most ignorant ones of the journalist bunch, always rise to the top.

    And, they are the ones who give you the news.

    But, I’m not bitter.

    Ag80 (c46598)

  13. Back when I was in student government in college, we had a meeting with one of the university’s PR people. (We were planning a march on the state capitol at the time, but that’s another story).

    I’ll never forget his lesson.

    “When giving a message to the press; remember why they got into Journalism in the first place. It’s not “to report the news” or “to write history’s first draft”. It’s to “make a difference”. Adjust your message accordingly.”

    It’s so hard to make a difference when there are icky conservatives in your way.

    Techie (482700)

  14. Techie:

    The PR guy that told you that is exactly right.

    Ag80 (c46598)

  15. First, Bradley is a science reporter. That is a bit like being a hard science PhD. You don’t get to choose your facts.

    Second, Bradley is a libertarian. If more journalists were libertarians, people would believe more of what they say.

    Of course, being a libertarian journalist is a bit like being a free market politician. What good is it being a journalist or a politician if you can’t make stuff happen and have to rely on the rules of economics ?

    It’s even a bit like being an anarchist judge. You say “That is wrong but who gives a shit ?”

    Reporting the news is so passive. J school has taught all these kids that they have a mission to change the world. Reporting the news and letting others change the world is not satisfying.

    Some of us think reporting the real news is enough but we are not a majority, at least on the left.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  16. Re: Declining Newspaper circulation.


    [note: fished from spam filter. –Stashiu]

    glenn (757adc)

  17. That’s the truth, Techie. Journalism spun out of control after All the President’s Men.

    Patricia (b05e7f)

  18. It’s simple. Newspapers are outmoded. Just like telegraphs took over for the Pony Express, the internet is where people get their news. I go to our WaWa (think 7-11) every day, and the only people I see buying papers are older.

    Papers aren’t dying because of ideology, they’re dying because of technology.

    JEA (3fc310)

  19. I was on scene and interviewed by reporters during two big local stories. The resulting news write ups were so far off the mark they destroyed my faith in ‘news’ accuracy.

    …but they nevertheless like their lawyer or Congressman.

    Too true. But my congress critter wrote the Fair Tax bill and nominated by son to the Air Force Academy even though I’m the most unconnected, stringless father ever.

    Gajim (1b8aff)

  20. Just like telegraphs took over for the Pony Express, the internet is where people get their news.

    And the reason people don’t get their news from newspaper publishers on the Internet is?

    EW1(SG) (edc268)

  21. What good is it being a journalist or a politician if you can’t make stuff happen and have to rely on the rules of economics ?

    What I get out of science journalism is finding out interesting stuff and explaining it to people. And I’m doing this without any vested interest in promoting any particular view of science. I didn’t get into journalism to change the world; it’s just something I love to do, and I despise mixing journalism with propaganda.

    Global warming is a good example. I’m trying to stay faithful to the research, and not let myself be co-opted to a political movement. One of the lessons of science is the need to keep an open mind, even on issues believed to be settled. Yet some scientists are openly trying to shut down debate on global warming, because they have already decided the theory is proven, they want to save the planet, and don’t want to confuse the public with debate. They are acting like politicians.

    A few scientists of that ilk went so far as to devise a computer model of the cosmic ray warming hypothesis, with the explicit purpose of proving it was false and to shut down debate. Few things could be more unscientific.

    And some of the data collected is getting very hard to fit into global warming theory, such as heat transfers by ocean currents. There’s now predictions that this could lead to cooling over the next couple of decades.

    But of course this doesn’t disprove AGW, they say. If it’s warming — hey, it’s warming! If it’s cooling, well, our theory predicts that too!

    At this point, I can only say AGW is an open question that needs a lot more research. And we have the time, without spending ungodly sums of money, even according to conventional AGW understanding. And there’s also geoengineering, which the AGW community freaked out about when the authors of Superfreakonomics endorsed it.

    So the public policy question is, why the rush to impose the most drastic, costly, and least effective means of dealing with AGW, even if we accept it’s true?

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  22. Brother Bradley,

    I know more than that. I know that Knap got run out of Sacramento by BOTH parties because he has no ethics.

    I also know he actively works for democrats. Ask Hugh Hewitt about Mr. Knap and the “U Word” demanding equal time on Hugh’s show when he was focusing on a Republican Primary and there was not a Democrat Primary.

    The best greeting when Mr. Knap is at your door is a 12 gauge coach gun with both hammers cocked.

    PCD (1d8b6d)

  23. Oh, for 22. I forgot to say that the shotgun be loaded with rocksalt.

    PCD (1d8b6d)

  24. Ag80,
    But, what’s really weird to me is that the most clueless, the most uneducated, the most ignorant ones of the journalist bunch, always rise to the top.

    Weird to me too. Patterico’s been pointing out the bias and outright factual howlers in the LA Times for years now, and the top editors don’t seem to care. And the poor clueless Washington Post is only now pondering whether it should be paying more attention to conservative media.

    I think a big part of the problem is the media believing its own fulsome hype, guardian of democracy, etc. This is what we’re taught as pups in J-school. When you think you’re that good, you’re not likely to consider your failures.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  25. PCD,
    I know that Knap got run out of Sacramento by BOTH parties because he has no ethics.

    Wow. That’s worse than I thought. So this is the leader of the OC Reg’s political, government and investigative team. This is yet another example of clueless top editors giving an important job to a biased reporter. And these same top editors wonder why the public is disenchanted with journalists.

    I’ve never talked with Hugh Hewitt, but I’d really like to now. If he’s speaking at any events in the near future, I’d like to know.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  26. Actually I just had an interesting thing happen. We let our subscription to the local paper (which does a miserable job of reporting local issues) lapse. Sales reps started calling, we stalled, finally re-subscribed, $6.00 a month. As compared to $32. Why did I subscribe? Vital stats. And I loke to check the obits to make sure I’m not in ’em.

    glenn (757adc)

  27. Brother Bradley,

    I don’t know what Hugh’s speaking schedule is like. He tends to be a bit of a OC recluse outside of the show. One way to contact him is through his producer, Duane Patterson, at KRLA.

    As far as the Register, after they run off Ken Grubbs and installed Tonie Katz, a liberal, the paper has been on the same slide as the LASlimes.

    PCD (1d8b6d)

  28. But, what’s really weird to me is that the most clueless, the most uneducated, the most ignorant ones of the journalist bunch, always rise to the top.

    Anyone questioning this premise need only to see the recent Columbia J – School travesty, where the eager students sing their inane song chastising the Darth – like evil Fox news. Calling them doofus quislings would be far too kind – I’ve been debating this problem with many of the hacky journos here in the Midwest, and their attitudes are not in any way different than witnessed in that video. The local J – School here (Medill at Northwestern) routinely expectorates (i.e. graduates) these types of great thinkers.

    Although, I must be fair, once in awhile they do worthwhile work, like their recent examination of wrongful convictions by the prosecutors in Cook County. Naturally, this has lead to the local politicos launching a witchhunt against the students. No wonder some of them get the wrong idea about their profession.

    Dmac (a964d5)

  29. I actually prefer reading a newspaper to reading online, but I can’t in good conscience support an enterprise like the LAT that (1) hates me, the reader, and (2) hates America.

    It’s propaganda.

    Patricia (b05e7f)

  30. Agree about technology. But there would be a place for dead tree media, if they had a better product.

    If I could get, in one fell swoop, news of record, local events (especially good local politics), classifieds and jobs, human interest, movies and entertainment, ads for local business, PLUS tolerable national and international news, it would save me hours of internet time.

    Even in my little rural area paper, the local stuff is politicized, reducing circulation, and so the paper doesn’t have enough ads or classifieds to make it worthwhile. It limps along, publishing anything anybody tells it without checking for any other point of view, because it can’t afford staff. Here, for local politics, one must plug into the word-of-mouth circuit, which is gossipy and unpleasant, worse than time-consuming. Once the downward spiral starts, it seems it would take massive changes in approach to turn it around.

    jodetoad (059c35)

  31. Please don’t tell my mother I am a journalist. She thinks I play piano in a whorehouse.

    Huey (b957d9)

  32. “…they have a mission to change the world…”

    Lee Harvey Oswald changed the world.

    AD - RtR/OS! (83414c)

  33. Comment by PCD — 11/2/2009 @ 8:22 am

    Yes, but they have that great speaker of truth-to-power, Steven Greenhut.

    AD - RtR/OS! (83414c)

  34. 33, AD, I don’t recall that name. I remember many shenanannagans that OC Editors pulled to try to keep Doris Allen in power as Speaker of the CA Assembly solely because she sold out to Willie Brown.

    Those liars couldn’t even report that Allen was drunk and holding a scheduled campaign against the recall event outside of her district.

    PCD (1d8b6d)

  35. Comment by AD – RtR/OS! — 11/2/2009 @ 11:02 am

    I correct myself.
    Steven Greenhut is no longer “on-staff” at the OCR.
    I picked up my Sunday Commentary section just now (just a little behind on my reading), and lo-and-behold,
    Greenhut’s column is labeled as “Special to the Register”, and he is now ID’d as “Director of the Pacific Research Institute’s Journalism Center (sgreenhut at pacificresearch dot org)”.

    AD - RtR/OS! (83414c)

  36. Great, now he goes where he can indroctrinater more little obots.

    PCD (1d8b6d)

  37. Circulation is down because “news” is not reported anymore. Rather, what we get now is opinion, bias, outright lies, and censorship of the real news.

    We do not have “mainstream” media anymore; We now have the Ministry of Propaganda that rivals Pravda in its heyday. Goebbels would be proud.

    Fortunately, the “mainstream” media can be found on the Internet. There is nothing mainstream about the state press. The 4th Estate has become a fifth column.

    So done with kumbaya bs (1c92ac)

  38. I keep thinking that the newspapers have been publishing the environmentalist agenda so long they forgot that they are the dead tree media. They have ticked off the conservatives who don’t believe in AGW and made the liberals who do, feel guilty about buying their product because of AGW, pollution, landfills, and the litter that is the end result of the daily paper.

    OnceTargetBestBuyMenardsSearsPennysKmarKohlsSnyderHomeDeptEtc.. figure out a better way to distribute their Sunday adds, the newspapers are gone.

    snookered (c64d75)

  39. I think snookered hit on a good point.

    After I left the dead-tree media and went to work in the high-tech industry, the buzz word was “commodization.”

    In the past, newspapers provided a wealth of information. Not only in the news space, but also in the ad space.

    And, now, in the digital information age, many look at the news space as the decline of papers as a going concern.

    But, I think it may be simpler than that. The biggest expense to most newspapers is, in fact, the paper. And the price of newsprint, in modern times, has always fluctuated wildly and has been difficult to budget.

    Retail ad space, the big ads on the news pages, used to be nominal money makers because of the uncertainty of print prices.

    But classifieds provided the gold. A classified ad was cheap for most people. And when the print media controlled the market, it was a reliable way to sell your puppies or your car. Although the profit margin was low, newspapers could depend on a steady income that generally defeated the paper costs because of volume.

    I remember the day when the Sunday Dallas Morning News and Houston Chronicle had to be delivered in two bags because classifieds dwarfed the rest of the paper.

    We all like to think that shoddy journalism is killing newspapers because of the unfettered information provided by the internet. I agree with that.

    But, I also can’t help but think that the commodization of classified ads, through Craigslist, ebay, (which used to be print) etc., has really tolled the death knell for newspapers.

    Look at the classifieds of your local rag today. Compared to the ’80s and early ’90s, classifieds are barely there.

    Ag80 (3d1543)

  40. As to all of those retailers referred to by “snookered”…
    Most of those come in a throw-away on Friday (Saturday for the Spanish-language versions).

    AD - RtR/OS! (83414c)

  41. […] Why is Newspaper Circulation Down? […]

    The News Factor: updated headlines 11-3-09 (c06615)

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