In defense of Star Tribune reporters

We all cried a little when the news broke yesterday that the Star Tribune didn't make a quarterly payment on its debt this week.

While Strib haters like to blame the supposed liberal slant of the Minneapolis paper's coverage for it's downfall, a piece on American Journalism Review makes a strong argument otherwise. Don't worry Strib reporters, you aren't to blame. Other journalists wouldn't want to hurt your feelings.

Paul Farhi says the continuing decline and failure of newspapers across the country is well beyond coverage decisions or political slants. Advertising dollars are disappearing and they can't keep up with the decline with online replacements:

You've heard it before, from a thousand bloggers and roundtable know-it-alls: We were too slow to adapt, too complacent, too yoked to our tried-and-true editorial traditions and formulas. We could have saved ourselves, goes the refrain, if only we had been more creative and aggressive and less risk averse.

To which I can only reply: Oh, please.

Newspapers are in trouble for reasons that have almost nothing to do with newspaper journalism, and everything to do with the newspaper business. Even a paper stocked with the world's finest editorial minds wouldn't have a fighting chance against the economic and technological forces arrayed against the business.

Farhi says newspapers are dying simply because they're dying. The cash flow disappears due to poor economic situations and free online alternatives, Owners like the Strib's Avista Capital Partners can't fork over the cash to make it up. Thus, content keeps getting smaller and less attractive to readers. And the cycle of cuts continue.

I suspect someday our former readers will be peering forlornly toward their empty doorsteps and driveways and wondering where the paper they once loved has gone. I will share their sadness, but not their shock. I've got some news for you, dear readers: Our disappearance wasn't your fault. And as a journalist, I can safely say, it wasn't ours, either.

How depressing.

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