The corrupt Washington Telegram in The Solomon Scandals is, mercifully, fictitious. But in real life, some newspapers are selling out in a different way—by diverting money from their newsrooms to jack up profits and please Wall Street. So much for the Net as the only major villain.
Here’s an excerpt from The Withering Watchdog: What really happened to investigative reporting in America, a PBS series:
“Exposé analyzed the financial records of the five most profitable publicly-traded newspaper companies in America. Not only was each profitable during last year’s apocalyptic financial collapse—averaging nearly $294 million in profits each—but when adjusted for inflation, the profits these media giants made in 2008 were higher than their 20-year average profits.
“In other words, even in the worst economy since the Great Depression, these top media companies made more profit than they had on average for the past two decades.”
What if the money instead had gone over the years to helping newspapers adapt to the Internet and changing demographics and new social trends?
To answer the inevitable question, the five most profitable newspaper companies traded publicly are Gannett, McClatchy, the New York Time Company, Lee and Scripps, according to Laura Frank, a former reporter with the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News, who wrote the PBS article.