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Journalists’ first responsibility is to stockholders, not journalism. LA Times’ editor deserved what he got for not getting it. 1/25/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in LA Times, Shareholders.
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Last week’s ousting of LA Times editor James O’Shea under the paper’s new Sam Zell regime ought to serve as a cautionary tale for journalists who want to survive the next round of layoffs. In his farewell remarks to his newsroom, he decried the paper’s “voodoo economics” before offering voodoo economics of this own. Journalists, not accountants, should seize responsibility for newspapers’ financial health, determine their own staff sizes, and decide how much news is reported. Journalists, not readers, should decide what is covered — “we must tell people what they want to know and — even more important — what they might not want to know,” he insisted. And all those other little people it takes to make a newspaper successful can just buzz-off — managers, shareholders, sales/marketing staffs, financial analysts, HR folks, operations people, even the papers’ own readers. Journalists can do it all on their own.

Sorry to break this to you, Mr. O’Shea, but you are nothing but a cog in a wheel. You live in America, where news is a business and shareholders support your efforts only because they want to make a profit. If they didn’t, they would be investing in a charity instead. And if you cannot accept this, you ought to work for the few news outlets that do not operate as businesses. Outlets that are funded by taxpayers through NPR and PBS. Magazines that are supported by the politically active, like The Nation and the National Review. Newspapers that are supported by churches, like The Washington Times and The Christian Science Monitor. Hey, if your work is so damn important, why not become a blogger and write whatever you damn well please? But I suppose that wouldn’t work. That would mean that for the privilege of telling people what you want them to hear, you would have to make a sacrifice. Not somebody else, like shareholders.

Comments»

1. Fred - 1/30/08

Interesting comments. In part correct. As a shareholder it is our goal to have our investment grow and succeed thus earning us a profit.

The question then comes down to what will make the business profitable. Journalism that is biased towards the perceived interests or opinions of the shareholders or jouralilsm that is true and factual and unbiased.

For me report to me the truth, not your opinion. Report the facts let me draw conclusions and most of all be honest, fair, and report all sides of an issue. I will then purchase your product and thus the shareholder will be happy.

2. Steve Boriss - 1/30/08

Fred, Attempting to report “truth” is only one possible business model for profitability, and after decades it is failing. The Internet is teaching us that objectivity is impossible and getting to “truth” is more of a job for historians than journalists. The business model we are moving toward, thanks to the Internet, is one where news outlets are transparently biased, providing information and opinions that they believe to be true, battling it out with other biased outlets that are doing the same. This is the news that Jefferson wanted, the news that America had until about 100 years ago when the attempt was made to turn journalism into a science, and the news that, thankfully, we are returning to.

3. Car Loan - 6/8/08

Car Loan…

Acquire auto loans to have a chance to shop for a small Audi after applying by the process within a notable corporation….

4. James Tayler - 2/8/09

Was looking for a copy of this article and found it on your site. Thanks!


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