Shirky on the Death of Newspapers

From Clay Shirky’s personal blog: Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable.

When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to.

There are fewer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie.

42 Responses to “Shirky on the Death of Newspapers”

  1. shcb Says:

    Things change and this is our piece of history we are living through. Everyone lives in a time of history, it is just hard to see it because you are evolving with it, sort of like not noticing you kid growing up because you see them every day. How this morphs out we may or may not live to see. I remember when the internet first got popular people though this would be such a good thing because all this information would be free, well it isn’t, the internet morphed into primarily a place to do business, it has replaced main street. Those people were upset that all the stuff they thought would be free isn’t, but of course they were looking for their best interest and not considering the author’s.

    What I find most disturbing about this article is who is going to pay for the hard news being gathered and how will they be paid. Someone has to sit in on those city council meetings, someone has to go to Baghdad, hopefully that someone is someone that is to a degree neutral, and that neutrality is best accomplished if he has no vested interest in the story. Ideally we would like the person doing the writing also be neutral but we can probably live with bias plus bias equals balance. But the two writers need unbiased raw data. I certainly don’t want government paying the reporters. But who and how?

  2. J.A.Y.S.O.N. Says:

    The newspapers all blew it by giving it away free online. I look at this as them having to say ‘well we’re not printing and you’re going to have to subscribe online.’ People will not like it at first, but I’d be willing to get the Cleveland or Akron paper’s like that if I had to.

  3. shcb Says:

    I’ve always liked this micro payment idea. I buy a lot of how to books, right now my passion is in building a wooden ship model. Many times I have bought a book for one chapter of the book, I would like to be able to just buy that chapter. Since there is no printing cost maybe a book costs $5 to $10 dollars and a chapter $1.00, I fill up an account from my credit card and with one click I have the chapter I want. I can see the same thing happening with newspapers, ten cents per article or 50 cents for the whole paper, that sort of thing.

  4. NorthernLite Says:

    Does anyone else find it odd that someone here is concerned about “media neuturality”, but constantly posts links to the most biased news sources known to man?

  5. enkidu Says:

    “media neutrality” is a wwnj code phrase for “more bilious right wing garbage” Because foxNEWTS is just so dang left wing!

    Seriously what do you expect from shcb? He fantasizes about smashing an axe in the face of a guest at a cocktail party because he doesn’t like her opinion. But why bother to point these things out eh?

    NL/knarls… So how in the world did Canada get a science minister who is a chiropractor? I mean really! and he’s a creationist… yeah, that’ll make for some really sound science policy… did he leave the bush admin in late 2008 and emigrate? /snark

    re: newspapers and micropayments, the world would be a lot different if Napster had figured out how to run a micropayment music download service way back when. We haven’t had a paper subscription in well over a decade.

  6. shcb Says:


    He fantasizes about smashing an axe in the face of a guest at a cocktail party because he doesn’t like her opinion.

    show me where I did that


    are you talking about Foxnews? can you show me a place where Foxnews has gotten a fact wrong?

  7. enkidu Says:

    I think you also had a post where you were fantasizing about smashing an axe/hatchet into the face of some woman at a cocktail party where you didn’t like her liberal opinions. ooops sorry it wasn’t a hatchet: (last paragraph)

    Or the posts where you talk about nuking 10 million Bad Guys™

    Just par for the course for right wing nut jobs (tho to be honest you are much less nutty than TV, patriot, or sgt slaughter or the local fart-in-the-elevator).

  8. knarlyknight Says:

    The Canadian Science Minister is no surprise, given that he Prime minister idolizes George Bush more than shcb and McSame put together. We’re still in the dark ages of Conservative rule here and there is nary a glimmer of light off in the distance. Our new budget is disturbing for the extent of some cuts and who receives stimulus money, and the scientific support and environmental safeguards that are being trashed.

  9. NorthernLite Says:

    Here ya go BUD.

    Hope you have a few days to kill to get through it all – and that’s just one jaagoff.

  10. shcb Says:

    Hannity’s show is opinion, not news.

  11. enkidu Says:
    With all the fury over Obama signing last year’s spending bill – all those earmarks! – it is hilarious to see the hypocrisy in action. Some of these losers rail against earmarks while having dozens or hundreds of earmarks in the bill.

    Reminds me that the bailout money will go to more R districts than D, just like the way my taxes disproportionately go to R states.
    For every dollar that CA pays out in taxes we get back something like $0.75 from the Feds… yes, scream some more about how taxes hurt CA wwnjs! Maybe we can get the ball rolling to cut off the gravy train to Dumfarkistan as R states benefit from the D state tax outflows.

    Are you SURE you good ol boys don’t want to secede? This time we’d let you go and just put a fence around you lunatics. After all, we surround you (dang… cribbing Glen [Lunatic] Beck for comedic purposes, must go bleach my brain now). ;-) But we’ll fight to keep Texas this time around. Go ahead nutjobs, I dare ya.

  12. enkidu Says:

    5010 items

  13. knarlyknight Says:

    enk, what are those 5010 fox items , i.e. what’s the database or search term. It looks like 5010 factual errors (lies?) is that what that is?

  14. enkidu Says:

    translates into fractured Anglisch as: search query term is “fox”

    I could have been more specific to make it fox lies or fox news (pretty much the same term)

    up to 5011 items now btw

  15. shcb Says:

    lots to choose from, pick one

  16. knarlyknight Says:

    I like this one, as shcb was repeating this little falsehood himself.

    Fox News presents deceptively cropped six-month-old Biden clip as new

    Summary: Fox News’ Martha MacCallum claimed that “after weeks of economic doom and gloom, the Obama administration is now singing a slightly different tune. Take a look at what was said in recent interviews this weekend.” Fox News then aired clips of administration officials purportedly giving an optimistic view of the economy, which included video of Joe Biden stating: “The fundamentals of the economy are strong.” However, Biden did not make those remarks during an “interview” over the past weekend; he made those remarks at a September 2008 campaign event in which he criticized statements by John McCain.

  17. knarlyknight Says:

    Bidden was in fact quoting McSame and mocking the statement.

  18. shcb Says:

    This seems a legitimate complaint, but only this one clip out of a several (I assume) was wrong, the others were right so the story was still valid. Bad job for not looking at dates closer. You can go Brent Bozell’s page and find these same things on the MSM on a daily basis. But this gets to my point, someone is paying Brent and his boys, and someone is paying the guys at Media Matters. Now we know Soros at least provided seed money to Media Matters and I’m sure Brent’s uncle helped him find funding from conservatives, when William F Buckley talked, people listened. But at some point they have to find a way to survive on their own. Now these groups can be run fairly inexpensively, but sending reporters all over the world is quite another story. Maybe it is as simple as television starts to pay for the reporters instead of the print media.

  19. shcb Says:

    Here is another point about this story. Now this was a fairly minor story, politicians, especially Democrat politicians engaging in demagoguery isn’t exactly breaking news, and this one had about a one day shelf life, as it should. But this was a legitimate story. Did the MSM cover it at all? Would they have covered it if it was a Republican administration saying the economy was sound, you betcha they would have, for weeks on end.

  20. NorthernLite Says:

    Thanks admitting that Hannity is full of shit, but that it’s okay because it’s just his opinion (i.e. Hannity’s opinions are full of shit).

    We finally agree on something shcb!!

    Also, your hero was here yesterday, drew a stunning crowd of 1500 people to hear him speak in Calgary (which is our Texas (oil, ranches, rednecks)). The best part of the visit was the 500 people outside throwing shoes at cardboard cut-outs of him.

  21. enkidu Says:

    NL – weren’t they throwing shoes?
    Throwing stones sounds so medieval, so muslim or something. The Daily Show had video of them throwing shoes, but maybe after a few UC Porters the local ruffians were emboldened to greater excess.

    Seriously we point to some 5011 fox misstatements, lies, fabrications, distortions and outright poltroonery and all you can growl is “pick one”? Then when someone randomly picks one, you dismiss it as all the work of the evil Soros? Don’t you wingers have dozens or hundreds of evil right wing billionaires supporting you freaks?

    So do you deny your posts (duly linked above) about murdering someone with a hatchet? Or smashing a broken wine glass in the face of someone who had a different opinion than yours? With all due respect, meaning none, go (dick cheney to patrick leahy on the senate floor) yourself.

    You beotchs whinge about taxes, but nearly a third of the taxes I pay gets shoveled into the deep pit of R state stupidity. You miniscules natter on and on about how terrible it is to spend debt on main street USA, education and transportation, healthcare and infrastructure, yet are happy to waste trillions – yes, trillions – of debt on your playing Risk™ (badly) in the sandy countries grabbing at oil oil oil. Hey aren’t you glad we found all those WMDs? I know I am. Epic fail. Beyond epic, possibly catastrophic. Hopefully saner minds like Barack and Co can help avert apocalypse. Step aside morans, step aside.

  22. knarlyknight Says:

    Good post Enk, that about says it all. Except your shoes/stomes comment seems a bit off. NL did write “shoes”… The folks I’ve spoken to are either (a) incensed that Bush was let into Canada at all or (b) deeply dissapointed he was not frog marched into custody upon entry, or (c) pissed off at our government for ignoring the lawyers pleadings for action (a) or (b) to be taken. It is probable that Prime Minister Martin stands to gain personally somewhere down the line for his loyalty to the thuglican former US president.

    shcb: no, Bidden’s clip was not a part of a grander montage, it was the central peice of the 4 clips presented that tied them all together – without the faux Bidden clip to give weight to the other three clips the quotes would not have convinced anyone of the falshood Fox was presenting. But by all means, keep running around doing damage control on behalf of Fox news, it’s amusing (in a sad way) to witness you demeaning yourself so.

  23. shcb Says:


    The reason I wanted to cause bodily harm to that poor woman was because she was a jerk, not because of her opinion. The rest of this discussion has just degenerated past my pain threshold.

  24. enkidu Says:

    ah yes, the old “well she deserved to have me smash my bottle of Bud Lite in her face, she were disresectin the pretzelnitwit!” Just like dear old Dick ran-an-assassination-ring-Cheney. So it is OK to murder those with different opinions? How low the bar has sunk after the bush era…

    Sorry that facing reality is just too much for you. But do clutch your pearls, weep dramatically, declare victory and keep up the partisan poltroonery.

    I mean really, you were presented with over 5000 instances of foxNOISE distorting the truth and all you can say is “George Soros”? weak

    You can dish it out (weakly, like a tepid cup of tea, er I mean vitriol) but you can’t take even the slightest in return. What a bunch of glass-jawed popinjays. The party that Lincoln founded is dead, you idiots killed it. Heck of a job lil-ricky, heck of a job.

  25. shcb Says:

    Go to Media Research .org and you can see thousands of pages of liberal bias. And the incident with the condescending woman happened at least 20 years ago, had nothing to do with Bush.

    I just get really tired of continually having to correct you guys on things you perceived I said that I didn’t. You guys also have the attention span of a knat if you think you can catch someone in a gotcha. It gets old. NL says above that I am saying Hannity is full of shit, I never said such a thing, the point was that we were talking about how news is gathered and reported and Knarly gives Hannity as an example. My point isn’t that Hannity can tell things that aren’t true but that as an opinion show he is not relevant to the conversation. He is not obliged to give both sides of an argument like a news program for instance, that is the job of another host or his guests. It gets old.

  26. knarlyknight Says:

    SHCB: I think you are wrong again.

    Show me where I ever used Hannity as an example of news.

  27. enkidu Says:

    You said quite clearly you wanted to smash a glass (of refreshing bud lite? ;-) in a woman’s face because you didn’t like her opinion (she was a jerk, eh? you do realize that is an opinion, right? that murder is not the best recourse, right? it doesn’t matter that you threatened murder 20 years ago or 20 minutes ago)

    Same with the hatchet.

    Same with the wwnj whining about taxes… you douchebags are net RECIPIENTS of Fed tax expenditures. Yet you can’t help reflexively humping the leg of big money (see wwnjs rushing to defend the AIG bonus, Rush Slimeball? came out today in favor of these unwarranted, unearned bonuses)


    That mediaresearch.ugly web site was painfully amateurish…
    and it offered nothing but opinion. Media matters is working to restore fact-based news and reporting.
    again, owned

    Seriously lil ricky, it is no wonder people snicker behind your back, or to your face, your ‘information’ is partisan bullshit. Please don’t take offense at my scandalous use of such a strong word, as jbc uses it repeatedly in his manifesto.

    btw – fox had to ‘apologize’ for their ‘accidental’ misquoting the current VP.
    Come on, they had to very carefully edit that clip to make it say what they wanted it to: an intentional distortion that leans pretty much on the lie side of the line. The only thing they are sorry about, is that they were caught red handed.
    owned yet again

    How stupid are wwnjs?

  28. shcb Says:

    you’re right Knarly, that was NL, sorry.

  29. knarlyknight Says:

    shcb – apology accepted, it was a minor point and you were on a roll (err, I mean on a rant.)

    By the way shcb, congratulations on producing your new YouTube movie!

  30. NorthernLite Says:

    Well it’s only March but I think it’s safe to say that the ‘Lying Scumbag of the Year’ award goes to Sen. Chris Dodd.

  31. J.A.Y.S.O.N. Says:

    The micropayment thing might work ok. Having the option, I’d subscribe to a local news only option. I think that is the big thing hurting a lot of the papers. People no longer wait for the morning paper to find out what happened in the world.

    For books, I like that only if it’s something in the how-to category and even then only maybe. I still like an actual book.

  32. enkidu Says:

    NL – Chris Dead
    He’d better hope there are a couple rabbits stuck in his hat, because the voters are already mad at him, and there is a strong R challenger. i would hope for a strong D or I challenge, but if this guy has as much of the Financial Meltdown’s blame on his shoulders, then he deserves a bums rush out of office. Everything I have read says he has a nice big wheelbarrow full of blame that he seems to be squeakily pushing along towards the cliff.

    jayson – Someone did a cost/benefit analysis (or something like that) where they discovered it would be cheaper for the NYTimes to simply give every subscriber a Kindle and in a relatively short time (six months) the thing pays for itself. All those presses, union labor, distribution systems all go poof!, remade by the power of the intertubes. Not sure how advertising works on the KindleNYT. but since the thing is already leeched onto your credit card and the DRM etc is in place, this looks to be the future of newspapers. We’ll call em slates or something.

    thx goog! good boy, now sit

  33. enkidu Says:

    hmmm, need more data before we declare Dodd’s career Dead
    don’t miss Jane Hamsher’s take down of the current media frenzy

  34. J.A.Y.S.O.N. Says:

    shcb –

    See that’s the thing though. I don’t read the NYT. I read either the Akron Beacon-Journal or the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I don’t dislike gadgets, but I do for the Kindle and other ebook readers. (I tried the whole thing with my Palm and my iPaq already) I just want local news on it.

    I also don’t think putting all the pressmen out of a job is a good thing, not even remotely unless the paper is paying for them and their families to relocate to China so they can all transition to jobs building Kindles.

  35. shcb Says:

    Only in America can you have a guy like Dodd, that with the help of Frank almost single handedly plunged us into an epic recession and he gets rewarded by being reelected; but let him do something that is arguably constitutionally correct, and people want to ride him out of town on a rail.

  36. shcb Says:


    Excuse my ignorance, but what is Kindle?

    I feel for people displaced but I really don’t have a solution. I always use the example of the blacksmith, once upon a time there was a blacksmith in the smallest of towns and seemingly on every corner in larger ones, as cars replaced horses the need was less so those men changed into mechanics, welders, and such. It was a natural transition, the skill sets transferred. But while that happened quickly in historical timelines it was still a transition of several decades, there was a time when a man could be the best at shoeing horses, train his son, and his son could fix cars on the side, eventually all his grandson did was fix cars, so the family business over time morphed. In this case it seems we could see the newspaper industry go away in maybe ten years. A lot of it will just depend on the demand of people, I still like to hold a book, but will my grand kids? I haven’t gotten a newspaper for years though and haven’t missed it but will enough people just want to hold a paper and not an electronic device.

  37. J.A.Y.S.O.N. Says:

    Kindle is Amazon’s ebook reader. I thought that was what we were talking about. Man, I read Enk’s post as yours. I didn’t read that very carefully, apologies to the ‘room.’

    I’m still pretty cold on ebooks. I like actually reading the paper for some reason.

    I don’t think the blacksmith thing holds up when the skilled labor moves to where the people get paid $1.67 an hour.

  38. NorthernLite Says:

    shcb, obviously I think Dodd is a piece of crap, but to say that he “singled-handedly” caused an economic depression is a bit much.

    There’s lots of people to blame for that, and yes, some are from “your side”.

    You should learn to hold them accountable as well. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you outraged at a Republican member, in fact you seem to always defend them.

    What I’ve noticed about the Left is that they try to purge assholes from their ranks as quickly as possible. The right, it seems, isn’t very good at that.

  39. NorthernLite Says:

    Which probably explains why there are so many assholes in the Republican Party :) (couldn’t resist)

  40. NorthernLite Says:

    Oh, and Happy Iraq War anniversery everyone! Six years, a trillion dollars and counting, almost 5000 dead soldiers and what, exactly, was accomplished there?

  41. shcb Says:


    The right says the same thing about the Democrats not purging lowlifes, Ted Kennedy is the poster child, with Byrd a close second, it is just the perspective one comes from. People, myself included never think their sports team and race car driver gets enough press, it’s just human nature. My biggest gripe with Dodd and this economic mess is holding up the bill that would have regulated Fannie and Freddy several years before the meltdown, never letting even come to a debate. Obviously there was way more to the collapse than that, but there were some things that Dodd and Frank did unilaterally to make things way worse. Now they were within their rights to do those things, I’m not saying they should be criminally charged as people like Hannity have said, but they should have been held accountable at the ballot box.

    Couple examples, as much as I appreciate what Duke Cunningham has done for our country he got what he deserved, same with a couple guys caught in sex scandals, I never stood up for them, Bush and immigration and some of his economic policies, I wasn’t on board with that. I try and be fair. I think I have been fair with Obama so far. Of course I agree with Republicans the vast majority of the time or I wouldn’t be one. Part of the reason you don’t hear me criticize them is I am probably not going to be against the bill as a whole but only a certain portion of it and discussions rarely get that nuanced here Enky usually runs into the room with a sledge hammer flailing over his head way before that.


    Thanks, I thought that was what it probably was but I had never heard of it. Your right about my analogy, it really isn’t that deep, it is meant to answer the question of what will happen to those people who will lose there jobs, whatever jobs those are. But it works better for industries that evolve over time. For instance it would work well for jobs in power plants as we change technologies but less well for jobs lost in the textile industries for the reasons you cite.

  42. knarlyknight Says:

    I love answering rhetorical questions, so thanks for asking what was accomplished in Iraq. I have a few answers:

    1. Schooled the world not to mess with America when it has a mentally unstable president.

    2. Provided the armed forces with an excellent real – world training for a quick invasion and dealing with the logistics of a difficult theatre; new technologies including microwave-beam crowd disbursement, “voice of God” sonic messaging (very fascinating potential applications), on-going training for remote drome operations.

    3. Established permanent military bases for the 50,000 or so troops expected to remain on top of major middle east oil reserves for the foreseeable future.

    4. Taught many bright young marines about traditional Arab customs and how other peoples live via daily night raids on houses.

    5. Demonstrated that their are limits to America’s conventional military capacity, useful information for both Americans and for America’s enemies.

    6. Taught the world to think for themselves and not to trust America’s leaders no matter how good Americans claim their intelligence to be.

    7. Demonstrated the near uselessness of millions of people demonstrating around the world against the pending illegal invasion of another nation.

    8. Proved that American leaders have no more regard for world cultural heritage and similar treasures as the Taliban who blew up the 2000 year old giant Bamiyan Budda statues.

    9. Provided enormous employment opportunites for doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, physiotherapists and related support personal – potentially for decades.

    That’s all I got right now.

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