Another chain of newspapers, one of the largest in the United States, has filed for bankruptcy. It is a 163-year-old family-owned business that publishes 30, mainly regional newspapers, including the Miami Herald and the Kansas City Star.
Of course, new staff layoffs will follow, and many areas of the country will lose the valuable local information provided by these newspapers.
I note that 20% of newspapers have closed since 2004 and that 47% of industry workers have been fired.
Who knows how many other newspapers are on the verge of bankruptcy.
Of course this would not be of great interest to anyone if their closure concerned only their shareholders and their employees. Other kinds of businesses are closed every day without anyone shedding a tear beyond those directly involved.
However, the subject of newspapers is different. While newspapers certainly have formal owners, one can argue that the newspapers don’t actually belong to them. The owners simply manage and delegate to advance the common good.
And the common interest suffers profoundly as society and the political system lose the beneficial effect of timely investigation and reporting when a newspaper is shut down, when it loses those people whose mission it is to inform the local citizenry.
Technology is responsible for the revolutionary changes in news distribution.
News that once took days, even weeks, to reach people, i.e., from Athens to New York, is now instantaneous across the globe with a click of a mouse or a touch of a mobile phone.
Thus, this editorial can be read simultaneously in New York, Los Angeles, Australia, Athens, etc.
The question is whether there are successful cases where a mass media outlet has gone through the crisis and come out even stronger.
The answer is, yes. The biggest names are the Washington Post (owned by Jeff Bezos) and the New York Times, which have added millions of new subscribers over the past year.
From these developments, the Greek as well as the Greek-language press around the world cannot escape.
It is thus indicative that The National Herald is the only Greek-language daily newspaper outside of Greece.
On the other hand, it is noteworthy that Athens has 14 daily newspapers, 6 private TV stations – one more will be added soon – and the national broadcaster, ERT, which has 5 channels.
Indeed, 14 daily newspapers is a lot compared to, for example, New York, which has twice the population, but only four daily newspapers. But do you know how many copies the Athens papers sell? Among the morning papers, Logos sells 60 copies; in the afternoon, Kontra News sells 1,230.
It is well known that most of them are maintained by various businessmen, the majority of whom use them as a means of pressuring the political system and others.
Various websites are supported in the same way – but not all of them, because the costs are lower there – and those are used to blackmail, intimidate, and defame their opponents.
Unfortunately, Greek law is not strong enough to bring justice to the deliberately defamed.
And I say ‘unfortunately’ because at the end of the day, the media are judged on their credibility.
And when this is missing, the outlets constantly lose readers, making them even more dependent on non-publishing funding.
The result is that a vicious circle has been created that is increasingly pushing Greek media into unreliability and to “hired gun” status.
With immediate impact on the employees themselves, a significant proportion of whom are not paid or paid a pittance, and of course, on the quality of information provided to Greek citizens.