This rant reads like a parody of a print-media dinosaur, but it’s not

Jim Romenesko got an email from an ex-USA Today newspaper executive who was up in arms about comments made by the current editor-in-chief of the paper, David Callaway, who said that he could see the paper stop publishing daily in “five or six years.” This former ad-sales manager, Jim Gath, wrote a long rant on Facebook — which Romenesko also published on his blog. I’ve read a lot of pro-print and anti-digital invective from newspaper executives over the years, but this one takes the cake.

In a nutshell, Gath says the biggest problem with print newspapers isn’t a secular or systemic decline in print advertising because of the internet and competing platforms like Facebook. It’s the lack of executives with “guts,” he says. Oh, and also too many corporations that are run by “bean counters.” The fact that print media may be on the down-swing business-wise is nothing but an excuse, he says:

“That’s the excuse of losers. The excuse of hand-wringers who have no idea what to do. The excuse of the unimaginative. The excuse of those who don’t have the thrill of challenges & of competition coursing through their bloodstreams. The excuse of people who buy into the notion that ‘it just can’t be done’. The excuse of big corporations run by bean-counters.”


Gath goes on at length about the guts and determination of the early USA Today staff, from the “delivery people who drove through the morning darkness” to the people who slept “4 to a room for 3 hours a night just to get the paper out.” If it wasn’t about a newspaper, it would sound an awful lot like the big speech made in every cheesy war movie. I kept waiting for him to repeat the line from Animal House: “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? No!”

USA Today founder Al Neuharth got the “bean counters” in a room and “read them the riot act.” But the great franchise is dying, Gath says — because no one has any guts any more. There’s “No imagination. No competitive spirit. No drive.” Nothing about the way that advertising has changed with digital, nothing about competitive pressure from online platforms, nothing about the loss of a print-based monopoly or the evolution of information distribution. Just no one with guts, and too many bean-counters.

If I hadn’t seen it on Romenesko, I would have thought it was a post on Clickhole, the parody site run by The Onion. Unfortunately, it’s not a parody. At least we can rest easy knowing that Jim Gath doesn’t run a real newspaper any more.

How early newspapers were like the Internet

It was a common practice for 19th-century newspapers to republish poems, fiction excerpts, and even lists of facts that were originally published elsewhere. Editors would subscribe to many newspapers and would cut out things they thought were interesting, relevant, or fit a space on the page that they needed to fill and then republish them in their own papers, Cordell explained.

“Many 19th-century newspapers are comprised primarily of content from other newspapers,” he said. “They were more aggregators than producers of original content. And often they were created by very small staffs, and scholars such as Ellen Gruber Garvey have shown that this aggregation is what allowed newspapers to spread as rapidly as they did in the 19th century, because you didn’t have to produce the whole thing.”

Source: Listicles, aggregation, and content gone viral: How 1800s newspapers prefigured today’s Internet » Nieman Journalism Lab

Young Saudis Find Freedom On Their Phones

This is a fascinating New York Times piece about how Saudi teens use apps to get around the conservative culture in that country:

Life for many young Saudis is an ecosystem of apps. Lacking free speech, they debate on Twitter. Since they cannot flirt at the mall, they do it on WhatsApp and Snapchat. Young women who cannot find jobs sell food or jewelry through Instagram. Since they are banned from driving, they get rides from car services like Uber and Careem. And in a country where shops close for five daily Muslim prayers, there are apps that issue a call to prayer from your pocket and calculate whether you can reach, say, the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts before it shuts.

Source: Young Saudis, Bound by Conservative Strictures, Find Freedom on Their Phones –