There's widespread perception that newspaper companies are rapidly going broke. Obviously, some may be, but here's some compelling information to the contrary in an excerpt from the Withering Watchdog series by Laura Frank and produced by PBS:
"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. But they're paying a price for profit, (Brant) Houston (former head of Investigative Reporters and Editors) said. 'They're killing themselves.' "
"Media companies have been siphoning money from their newsroom budgets to pad profits, which many then leveraged to buy more properties in recent years. In the current recession, some are finding their financial positions may be too weak to weather the storm. Investigative stories — with their relatively high costs and potential to turn out to be dead ends — are often among the first things to get the axe."
In small bites and big chunks, investigative work's news value, not the quick-hit bursts of fluff and puff, has and always will create the lasting, bedrock value that keeps journalism and newspapers alive and well. It's expensive, but it's an essential part of life, and it can't be lived on the cheap. In the long run, as that news value pays off in minimizing government corruption and other ills, investigative work is worth every penny.
What do you think?