Maybe a lesson for newspapers
Warning: Half-formed thought.
Polistra has pointed out before
(and others have made the same point in other ways) that newspapers have survived two centuries of new technologies, each of which was supposed to kill papers but didn't. So they can't blame the Web for killing them this time.
Maybe there's a useful analogy in the death and rebirth of AM radio.
It's generally believed that AM radio died in the '60s because TV and FM grabbed the audience. This is partly true but doesn't explain why the audience was grabbable.Before
TV and FM offered serious competition, AM voluntarily abandoned its own audience.
In the '30s and '40s, network radio carried a huge variety of material from comedy to commentary to intellectual discussion to religion. Local stations carried music, commentary and poetry by local talent. After WW2 this began to disappear, and by the late '50s drama and comedy turned bleak and dismal. The turning point was the Army-McCarthy hearings, which broke the will of anti-Communists and allowed the formerly blacklisted Soviet writers to roar back into Hollywood with a vicious vengeance.
Westerns like Gunsmoke and Paladin were no longer about good triumphing over evil; instead they were full of subversive messages against religion and bourgeois values.
What's the point of listening to crap that makes you feel worthless? If Soviet propaganda is the only thing available on both TV and radio, you might as well abandon your intellect and watch TV, which at least has visual interest.
The same thing happened to newspapers in more recent decades. The big turning point here was the Watergate hearings. After Watergate, young journalists saw their vocation as protecting Democrats and smashing Republicans, protecting blacks and smashing whites, celebrating homosexuals and crushing marriage, freeing criminals and jailing law-abiding citizens, advertising scams and anathematizing facts. There is no room for open discussion, no time to investigate real corruption, only room for a primitive single-command operating system. Just as a termite's ROM contains nothing but "EAT WOOD!", a journalist's ROM contains nothing but "EAT CHRISTIANS!"
Again, what's the point of reading crap that tells you how worthless and contemptible your life is? What's the informational value in this?
= = = = =
Well, how did AM return from the dead? One word: Rush. His single-key math system is no more complicated than the Soviet system, but it pushes the opposite key. And he also added more subtle and open-ended commentary with a positive tone, opposing the universal bleakness of the Leninist line. He has degenerated over the years, more of the partisan keystroke and less of the commentary, but nevertheless this was enough to bring an entire medium back to life.
If papers are going to return, they need to find a new keystroke, perhaps on religious grounds instead of partisan politics.
Most of all, they need to restore variety and quality, stop insulting their readers, and start asking real questions. Even now, more than a year after Shotgun Paulson's daylight robbery of an entire nation's economy, no paper has even asked what happened. We still don't know what "event" (if any) justified his robbery.
The (if any) part is the real answer, of course .... there wasn't an emergency at all. Shotgun was assigned by his Chinese associates
to grab it all before the election, in case the next President dared to show independence. Luckily for China, the next president has turned out to be an equally loyal servant.