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Opening Arguments

Retrenching blues

Yikes. Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism is cutting staff positions and plans to gradually reduce enrollment "as the news industry retrenches."

News organizations around the world are cutting staff and budgets as advertisers and readers have fled traditional media for free online sources and social media sites, such as Twitter. While graduate student applications rose sharply after the recession that began in 2008, the school’s class size is headed back to a lower “historical norm,” Coll said.

For "retrenches," substitute, "flounders for a time until the wrong overreaction is chosen." When TV threatened newspapers, we tried to become more like TV, which gave us USA Today and splashy color and simple stories for those with short attention spans. We finally jumped into Internet (stupidly -- hey, read our stuff free online then pay us so you can read it again in print) but stayed too invested in that for too long while mobile technology started really catching fire. (That's going to shake up the world more than the Internet did, btw; we just don't know exactly how much yet.)

As I've said here before, this isn't just a newspaper problem or even just a print problem. What's breaking down is the whole mass market model in which news rides on the back of advertising. Everything is targeted now. There will always be "news" in one form or another. How to make money while presenting it will be the tricky part.