A lighthearted approach to the death of newspapers

Steve Chiotakis Jul 5, 2010

A lighthearted approach to the death of newspapers

Steve Chiotakis Jul 5, 2010


Steve Chiotakis: The newspaper industry’s been struggling. Badly. What with the Internet, cable news, radio . . . the Internet. It’s been a tough time for paper journalism. Something former Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry devotes a section to in his new book, “I’ll Mature When I’m Dead.” He’s with us now. Dave Barry, welcome to the program.

Dave Barry: Hey.

Chiotakis: So part of your book is a comedic look at the collapsing newspaper industry. This is an industry you’ve been a part of for almost four decades now. I mean how much responsibility do you take for its demise?

Barry: Well I mean, can’t be mere coincedence that when I stopped writing my column, the entire industry collapsed. But I think part of it was. This is an object lesson in the danger of allowing any industry to be run by English majors.

Chiotakis: Hahaha, what is it about English majors?

Barry: I don’t know. I am one, I was one, and we graduate from college with I think a minimal grasp of how anything economic works. And so when the Internet came along and we were challenged, we met it in true English major style — by holding lots of meetings and conferences. And we tried various approaches. One was, we went through a phase in the 90s where we pretended there was no Internet. Internet? What Internet? And then for awhile we tried to make our newspapers look like they were the Internet, constantly redesign them with more graphics and shorter stories . . .

Chiotakis: But you can’t click anything!

Barry: Yes, exactly, it’s a special kind of Internet where it doesn’t actually work — you can’t click anything and there’s no way it can be interactive or change. And now our approach is trying to figure out how we can make money giving away our product for free. Anybody out there with any ideas, let us know. Thanks, thanks a lot. I speak on behalf of the whole newspaper industry.

Chiotakis: Well because I want some sliver of information to come out of this interview . . . that our audience can learn . . .

Barry: God that’s gonna be tough. OK, I’ve got one. Capital of Vermont: Montpelier.

Chiotakis: How do you save the newspaper industry? You have to have an idea or two.

Barry: I really don’t. I think what’s going to save it, if you want me to actually attempt to give you an answer, it’s going to be somebody like Google. You know, some company that has actual expertise at extracting money from people who use the Internet. Because somebody will have . . . I mean if we’re going to have journalism, I don’t think newspapers will survive. The goal now is to see, figure out a way for journalism to survive, which means somebody has to pay for it. And I don’t think the newspaper industry knows how to do that.

Chiotakis: Well ending on that positive note, Dave Barry.

Barry: And not only that, eventually the sun will turn into a cold, dark cinder. Other than that, though, I think things are looking pretty good.

Chiotakis: Dave Barry, humor columnist syndicated for . . . well for how long we don’t know.

Barry: Thousands of years.

Chiotakis: We thank you for being with us.

Barry: You bet! Thanks for having me on.

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