I toyed with the idea of becoming a journalist on leaving school, although I was only interested in the writing bit, not the phone calls, interviews and all that, so it's just as well I wasn't able to go down that path, although I'd love to write an opinion column. Rachel Buchanan is someone I know from reading some of her pieces, mostly in the Age, I think. They usually had something interesting to say.
This book is about the decline of newspapers, what they once were and what they might be like now. It's also about her mixed relationship with journalism, in various roles, including academic and subeditor. She writes in the early part of the book about trying to escape it, but always coming back for whatever reason or circumstance, something that resonates with me in what I've been engaged in these past decades. A caveat here is that the book came out in , a few years ago now.
Having said that, the issues she examines and the things she observes are fairly comprehensive and if you want to know the context for understanding the newspaper industry at the moment, then you'll be well-informed by this easy to read book.
Stop Press, The Last Days of Newspapers by Rachel Buchanan | | Booktopia
Buchanan interweaves her own experience in both working for newspapers and teaching students about journalism with information about the people and companies that put out the newspapers, provide things like printing presses and newsprint, or outsourced services. She points out that the decline in newspapers isn't just a problem for journalists, but also for those operating a printing press, or subeditors.
She's worked with both News Limited and Fairfax Media, the two major newspaper owners in Australia and New Zealand, and so tells stories and recounts events from both. The emphasis, though seems to be more on Fairfax Media, although that might just be my bias, as an Age subscriber. Maybe there are also more transparent examples available. At any rate, she escribes the tensions in that organisation very well, from my poutsider's point of view. If there's one thing to be gleaned from this story, it's the poor treatment of staff members at all levels.
The famed journalist Michelle Grattan not being given a farewell; outsourced staff, treated like chattels in sub-standard conditions, working on newspaper content for papers from places they've never been to; or the dubious but not unusual instance of a senior Fairfax manager being given a large departure package problematic in itself and then later rehired for a mid to high range 7-figure sum Buchanan doesn't reveal this latter amount, but it's well-reported. To me, this also raises questions about the capacity and efficacy of well-known consulting firms who were apparently brought in to give advice to this company, particularly as the issue of loyalty is raised towards the end of the book.
This is a general issue of course in financial, educational and other fields, but here it contrasts with the stories of people being determined to get the newspaper out and proud to do so. The lack of care displayed by senior management, including the bluntness of some News Ltd representatives, may not be a result of this outside advice, or course. An interesting sidelight is the comments regarding the indifference of IT people to any outside complaints about the Age website.
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A complaint is a "request" anyway. So in the end, I was wondering again what might be the case if better decisions were made and people were treated like human beings. I think this is also part of Buchanan's dilemma about her topic. You can read this in a morning, just about, or maybe a long afternoon. The author is personal and witty, and the pages mostly glide along. Jun 30, Cora rated it did not like it. Gave up at page I work in public relations and therefore come across a lot of commentary on newspapers.
Particularly, I find that older media pros seem to be clutching onto newspapers with an unfounded nostalgia. Personally, while I find it sad that people are losing their jobs, I see it as a fact of commercialism that industries come and go as technology advances. So, I read this book with the hope of gaining some insight into the wider impact of the demise of newspapers. Maybe I was mi DNF. Maybe I was missing something? Maybe I could better understand my older counterparts' reasons for determining that newspapers should remain through the digital age?
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As Buchanan herself phrased it in the book, she "was writing a book on the wider cultural and economical implications of the end of newspaper manufacturing, the end of newspapers as a vibrant community of workers, and the end of newspapers as an object that could be shared. I did not learn of any of these things Frankly, the book infuriated me!
Here's why The author begins with a quick run through of her career in newspapers. The impression I got from this was that she had no real love of journalism, had always wanted out of it to the point of moving on to studying history, but always seemed to be pulled back into newspapers. This makes it all the more annoying when she spends the entirety of the book sounding like a broken record while trying to convince the reader that the death of newspapers is a massive loss.
The only point the author seems to have for the death of newspapers being a loss is in the loss of jobs - not just journalists, we are reminded repetitively, but newsagents, printing press builders, etc.
However, she fails to consider how many jobs have been created in online-only publications and blogging. Sorry if I don't shed a tear for Rupert Murdoch if he was beaten to the punch by Unilad and stay-at-home mum bloggers. Apart from that one repetitive point, the book just goes on and on without actually saying anything. Pages upon pages are dedicated to describing interviews that she wasn't able to obtain, or that she did obtain but didn't get any information from.
She describes her own time in newspapers as being hell due to overworking, staff shortages and broken communication.
Again, sorry if I don't shed a tear because the unbreakable media giants like News Limited are running their businesses badly, or because Buchanan herself seemed to see this demise of newspapers coming since the 90s but rather than try to move with the change, she decided to stay in this dying industry which she seemingly hated. Buchanan's view of the newspaper industry seems to be summed up in the following quote from the book, "It's true, change can bring opportunity for a few , but it also brings loss and suffering, the urge to reflect. Regarding the actual writing; do you love short sentences and staccato rhythm which sounds like a ten year old's literature essay?
Then this book is for you! There is no story, structure or flow to the book. It is filled with repetition - the author comes back to some sort of list of how many jobs have been lost in one part of the industry or another several times and seemingly out of nowhere. I read paragraphs in which I got to the end thinking "What is she trying to say here? Hearst later went on to purchase or launch several more newspapers in multiple cities including the New York Journal in  and to found the Los Angeles Examiner in Hearst found early success, growing readership for the Examiner from 15, in to over 20 million.
Hearst's magazine division began in , with W. Hearst's creation of Motor magazine. He later acquired several other publications, including Cosmopolitan in , and Good Housekeeping in Hearst entered the book publishing business in with the formation of Hearst's International Library. Hearst began producing film features in the mids, creating one of the earliest animation studios : the International Film Service , turning characters from Hearst newspaper strips into film characters.
He later purchased the Chicago Herald in resulting in the Herald-Examiner. In the s and s, Hearst owned the biggest media conglomerate in the world, which included a number of magazines and newspapers in major cities. Hearst also began acquiring radio stations to complement his papers.
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This eventually lead to the merger of the magazine Hearst International with Cosmopolitan in In addition to print and radio, Hearst established Cosmopolitan Pictures in the early s, distributing his films under the newly created Metro Goldwyn Mayer. The Great Depression had a negative impact on Hearst and his publications. That year he also bought the Milwaukee Sentinel from Paul Block who bought it from the Pfisters in , absorbing his afternoon Wisconsin News into the morning publication.
Hearst, with his chain now owned by his creditors after a liquidation  , also had to merge some of his morning papers into his afternoon papers. Abandoning the morning market was harmful in the long run for Hearst's media holdings as most of his remaining newspapers became afternoon papers. Newspapers in Rochester, Syracuse and Fort Worth were sold or closed. Afternoon papers were a profitable business in pre-television days, often outselling their morning counterparts featuring stock market information in early editions, while later editions were heavy on sporting news with results of baseball games and horse races.
Afternoon papers also benefited from continuous reports from the battlefront during World War II. After the war, however, both television news and suburbs experienced an explosive growth; thus, evening papers were more affected than those published in the morning, whose circulation remained stable while their afternoon counterparts' sales plummeted. Another major blow was the fact that beginning in the s, football and baseball games were being played later in the afternoon to fit television schedules and now stretched through early in the evening, preventing afternoon papers from publishing all the results.
The company sold the latter paper in to the Chicago Tribune ' s owners, who changed it to the tabloid-size Chicago Today in and ceased publication in After a lengthy strike it sold the Milwaukee Sentinel to the afternoon Milwaukee Journal in The New York City newspaper strike left the city with no papers for over three months, with the Journal-American one of the earliest strike targets of the Typographical Union.
In Hearst Magazines bought Sports Afield magazine, which it published until when it sold the journal to Robert E.