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Is it time to give up on old news?

After three decades of working in the internet and news industry, I have come to a conclusion that I have been avoiding: it may be time to let go of old journalism and its legacy industry. This is not a decision I make lightly, as I have tried to push for change within newspapers and magazines, and I have great empathy for the journalists and others who are caught in a dying sector. However, it is clear that the old news industry is struggling to survive in the digital age. I am not suggesting that we give up on what is left, nor do I take pleasure in the downfall of this industry. In my time running a Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, I have tried to support both startups and legacy companies, but I am beginning to question whether it is worth continuing to invest time and resources into a failing system. The old news industry has failed to adapt to the internet, and every attempt to save it – from tablets to paywalls to programmatic ads – has been unsuccessful. Hedge funds have taken over newspapers and magazines, cutting costs and draining profits, while the only thing they seem to be investing in is lobbying. I recently testified in the Senate, urging legislators not to pass protectionist legislation written by industry lobbyists, but to instead support the emerging reinvention of journalism happening in communities across the country. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that this will happen. The bad news for news is constant, with layoffs and closures happening regularly. The Los Angeles Times is laying off 115 people, causing chaos and mayhem in their newsroom. Time magazine is cutting 15% of its unionized editorial staff. Billionaires who have tried to save old news are losing their fortunes. And just when I thought hedge funds couldn’t make things any worse, Alden has sold The Baltimore Sun to David Smith, a right-wing media mogul who has a history of hating news and newspapers. In the UK, the Mirror’s circulation has plummeted, and their local papers are struggling to survive. Sports Illustrated, once a prestigious publication, is being dismantled before our eyes. The FCC is trying to support local TV news, despite the fact that their audience is small, old, and dwindling, with more and more people turning to biased sources like Fox and Sinclair. Meanwhile, trust in journalism continues to decline, with a third of people actively avoiding news. I, myself, am tired of the old news’ pessimistic outlook, their coverage of politics as a game, their refusal to call out racism, and their focus on SEO over quality reporting. It may be time to accept that the old news industry is on its last legs and focus on supporting the new, innovative forms of journalism that are emerging. 

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