It has been a distinct honor and a real pleasure to have been allowed to write a weekly column for The City Paper these last three years. But I’m glad that I didn’t quit my day job, because professional journalism is becoming a very tough financial row to hoe.
As more and more content becomes free on the Internet, it becomes harder and harder to get readers to pay for anything non-copyright-able, like the news. And as advertisers devote more and more of their budgets to Internet heavyweights like Google and YouTube, it becomes harder and harder for smaller publishers to earn enough advertising money to stay afloat. I believe The City Paper has been a consistently good publication that is now shutting down through no fault of its own — a victim of demographics.
Unfortunately, many other outstanding small news outfits will soon follow suit. Such is the march of progress, one supposes. But sometimes “progress” means settling for a cheap aluminum can, rather than a fist-satisfying pewter tankard.
And such “progress” is not limited to newspapers and pubs. In a recent flashy presentation to well-heeled advertisers, Google’s Eric Schmidt didn’t predict that Internet video will one day surpass TV viewing. Instead, according to him, it’s already happened. Schmidt said that “the future is now” for YouTube, which recently passed one billion unique visitors per month. But he’s already talking about six or seven billion.
Obviously, if Google, YouTube, Facebook and a few other Internet heavyweights get billions of visitors per month, they can suck in huge amounts of advertising money, creating enormous vacuums elsewhere in the ether. In the writing world, quality normally means much more than quantity ... but not if no one can find the words.
I hope all my colleagues at The City Paper are able to land on their feet. I was very fortunate to have worked with two excellent editors, William Williams and James Nix. They gave me the chance to follow in the footsteps of “Give ’em Hell” Harry S. Truman, who once pointed out that he didn’t actually give anyone hell: he just told them the truth and they thought it was hell.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.