Can newspapers survive the digital revolution?
Matt Bai is a political reporter and staff writer for the New York Times Magazine, Bai graduated from Tufts in 1990 and received a Masters from the Columbia School of Journalism in 1994. Bai began his reporting career at the Boston Globe's metro desk; he spent five years as a national correspondent for Newsweek before coming to the Times in 2002. Bai has covered all sorts of national news: everything from the Columbine shootings to John Glenn's last space voyage to Mike Bloomberg's mayoral campaign. In recent years, Bai has focused primarily on intra-Democratic Party politics. He is the author of The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics, an analysis of the progressive movement. Bai's work has also appeared in both the 2005 and 2006 editions of The Best American Political Writing. Matt covered the 2008 presidential race for the New York Times Magazine.
Matt Bai: Oh yeah. They’re gonna survive in some way, shape or form. I mean you already see the New York Times just in the last 18 months the extraordinary transition from a print product creating many different . . . encompassing many different fiefdoms of print . . . many different formats to an Internet-based model where everything is sort of free-flowing. I mean I just started blogging yesterday. It’s not something I ever aspired to do. The magazine had no part in that until now. You know it’s up on the main Times site. I mean all the barriers have kind of come down within the organization. I think we’re culturally adapting. And I think, you know, five, 10 years from now it won’t even be recognizable. It’ll be a whole different product. It may be entirely digital. And the financial model is moving to the Web. So for a large organization with great credibility and a big readership I think, you know . . . will absolutely survive the era. Will the business be changed? Will some people not survive? Will the industry be restructured? Sure. I think . . . You know what always makes me laugh about this, we’re a business of great complainers. And what always makes me . . . And it’s easy for me to say ‘cause I work for a great entity. But what I always laugh about is what . . . what . . . I say to my friends who are journalists, “This is awful. This corporate ownership, and this consolidation, and they’re closing the … bureaus.” And I always say to them, “Tell me something. If you walk out of your house and you want to go to an independent drug store that’s not a chain, how far do you have to drive? If you wanna buy a book at an independent bookseller, how far from your home do you need to go?” What made you think for some reason that the business of journalism was somehow going to be insulated providentially from all of the greater forces at work in our economy and our world? You know we have to adapt to everybody . . . everybody’s technology and model is changing because technology and society are changing so rapidly.
Recorded on: 12/13/07
Technology will allow newspapers to survive, but in different forms.
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