On Monday, The New York Daily News announced mass layoffs, amounting to a “fundamental restructuring” of the liberal tabloid. “We are reducing today the size of the editorial team by approximately 50 percent and re-focusing much of our talent on breaking news – especially in areas of crime, civil justice and public responsibility,” an email from Tronc, the parent company, explained. Editor-in-chief Jim Rich tweeted out his disappointment:
New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, who just a few months ago was considering whether a round of layoffs at the newspaper might actually help him, was apoplectic:
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo even issued a statement offering state help for the newspaper:
All of which prompts the question: what’s so special about journalists, anyway?
Now, don’t get me wrong: I like journalists. Most of my friends are journalists. I run a news and opinion website, for goodness’ sake. But the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the cutbacks at a poorly-run newspaper are wildly outsized. In 1988, The Daily News had a 400-person newsroom. Specialized unionization had a massive impact on the future profitability of the newsroom. The internet took away the incentive for many people to subscribe to a physical newspaper at all. The Daily News just kept doubling down on its radical anti-Trump covers, hoping that its politics would make up for its failing business model.
There’s a strong case to be made that the journalism business no longer favors paying reporters. That’s because reporters are expensive, and their traffic — particularly on stories that don’t draw heavy attention — isn’t necessarily great. It’s far easier to make a buck from clickbait than reporting. All of which suggests that a market-based solution would involve online subscriptions, as The Wall Street Journal has successfully pursued, as well as a non-profit journalism model.
But it’s the ringing laments from the powerful that are truly telling here. None of these politicians and prominent public personalities seem wedded to their Luddite view of technology and business models when it comes to dying factory towns or dipping wages thanks to foreign competition and immigration. When Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) cut this ad during the 2016 election cycle, he wasn’t far off:
Now, I’m a free trader, and I believe in free movement of labor. But I’ve been consistent about that in every area. And lamenting the decline of the journalism industry thanks to free market competition and customer preference seems rather elitist when compared to the lack of interest in various other industries paying for the wages of Left-leaning governmental regulations and policies.