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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Significant, but no surprise: Legacy media circulation slips again

Yes, it slips again:

Average weekday circulation at U.S. newspapers fell 2.6 percent during the six month-period ending in September in the latest sign of trouble in the newspaper business, an industry group reported Monday.

Sunday circulation also fell 3.1 percent at newspapers reporting to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, according to an analysis of the data by the Newspaper Association of America.

We are also told,

Circulation has been steadily declining at newspapers for several years as readers look to other media such as cable TV and the Internet for news. Tougher rules on telemarketing have also hurt newspapers' ability to sign up new readers.

Like many bloggers, I honestly pity the plight of the big urban daily, just as I honestly pity the plight of yangchuanosaurus. It doesn’t follow that I feel we need one in my neighbourhood.

For example, this last weekend, Canada’s National Post ran a story on the efforts by some enterprising Kansas citizens to separate science from materialistic philosophy (usually called the "Kansas evolution controversy". (In the context of Kansas, I prefer now to call it the "open science" controversy.*)

The National Post story was essentially the usual wire service porridge from the States, with little of the background you would need to understand why some parents are upset and determined not to back down. The fact that a Canadian (me) actually wrote a book on the subject and has corresponded with players on both sides in Kansas did not motivate them to call me to help provide background. Naturally, I would expect them to interview someone who is less sympathetic to open science as well. I could even help them find such a person. But no, just porridge ... sigh ...

Now, in a free market, mainstream legacy media (MSLM) can choose to cover a story any way they want. But here's the problem: If you are interested enough to read up on the subject, MSLM are not making it more attractive to read the papers than to just go to specialist sites on the subject, such as Intelligent Design Network or Kansas Citizens for Science. They are easily found via simple search strings.

Granted these specialist sites are either pro open science or against it. But it doesn't take long to figure out which. Most legacy media stories will be implicitly anti open science and pro materialism because that is how journalists have been taught to see the world. ("It's only a matter of time before science proves that there is nothing in anything anywhere ... bartender!") But even if that is the story you want, the anti open science people will give you a more authentic product for free than the MSLM will.

The wire service porridge, as I call it, was the only product available in the days when, if you wanted to contact anyone in Kansas who could tell you what was going on, you faced a major research project. But now, both sides are only one click away from the Post-Darwinist, for goodness sake. So the MSLM serve no function except to relieve you of half a dozen quarters over the weekend.
So should I be surprised that the Internet is growing and many more of our Canadian trees will remain a home for the beaver and the wolverine?

* Open science controversy: Is the purpose of science simply to accumulate evidence for a materialistic view of the universe? Is the purpose of science education simply to promulgate such a view? Or does science go where the evidence leads? Is anyone permitted to accumulate or teach evidence against materialism? While it is true that some school board controversies revolve around efforts to get cult creation notions into a local curriculum, others cannot be understood without grasping the extent to which, in the view of many enthusiastic Darwinists, science is simply the handmaid of materialism, and there cannot be evidence against materialism. Therefore, no one is permitted to accumulate or talk about any such evidence.

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