The self-proclaimed World's Greatest Newspaper is in a lot of trouble. And it's not the only one. The news that the Tribune Company has filed bankruptcy would have been shocking just a few years ago, but the journalism business may be even sicker than the automobile industry.
Dead tree media are struggling, no doubt about it. But there may be a model for the future. At least two newspapers, the Capital Times of Madison no longer publishes a newsprint edition but is now strictly an internet publication. Next year the venerable Christian Science Monitor will follow suit.
The bottom line for most newspapers is pretty simple -- they can't recover their costs from what they sell through subscriptions or on the newsstand. The advertising dollars that have long sustained newspapers are not there, especially classified advertising. Advertisers get a lot more bang for their buck from competitors like Google and Craigslist and there's no reason to believe that the trends will turn back to the newspapers' favors.
Conservatives have often argued that the liberal bent of the MSM has hurt it. There may be some truth in that, but the Chicago Tribune historically has been known as the Great Voice of Midwestern Conservatism. Today's Tribune is a lot more liberal than it was when it was calling elections for Thomas Dewey, but it's nowhere near as liberal as the Star Tribune, for example.
Here's the question for conservatives. If conservatives really believe that newspapers would do better if they were conservative, now would be a good time to test the hypothesis. It would be possible for conservatives to pick up a number of media properties for pennies on the dollar these days. I don't sense that any conservative financiers are interested in making such a purchase, though.
The newspaper business may go the way of the typewriter business, but journalism won't go away. The new home of journalism? You're reading a tiny part of it right now.