I normally don’t read Andrew Sullivan anymore; his Lefty rants were always based on a love of socialism or historical cluelessness, boosted by a self-absorption that bordered on delusional.
However…he hits a solid three-base hit with his post today, “Out of the Ashes of Dead Trees.”
His observations mirror my own, and my own behavior. I used to get the paper Washington Post almost every day, but in the last two years, with my unemployment and cash-flow restrictions, I have shaken myself of the habit of buying a newspaper every day. I am now one of those digital news consumers, with a secondary dose of my news coming from radio (how’s that for retro?), and to a very tertiary degree, cable television news. It’s been years since I read a paper Newsweek or Time, or even bothered watching a CBS Evening News show.
And I am a historian, who delights into exploring 19th century paper books, or 1970s era paper magazines, and has in my home a library filled with about 6,000 paper books of various ages and sizes. I love paper, and yet electronic news has its place in my life as well. I don’t want the paper magazine to go away, but each magazine is a business and exists to make enough money to stay in business, keep the lights on, and pay its employees. They have to make tough financial decisions to stay alive–and they have to make these decisions at the right time, too.
Sullivan’s excellent piece explores why these dying media business models linger around, not recognizing the important concept of time in any decision. He almost gets to the end point in this excerpt:
The reason is that these huge corporations, massive newsrooms, and deeply ingrained advertizing strategies become interests in themselves. No institution wants to dissolve itself. Getting that old mindset to accept that everything that it has done as a business and editorial model is now over, pffft, gone, is very, very hard. But they often cannot adjust because they are too big to move so quickly and because new sources of information and new flows of information keep evolving, and because no one really wants change if it means more job insecurity. We’re human. It’s not pleasant realizing that the entire business and editorial model for your entire career is kaput.
Let me finish his logic. The reason why these huge corporations and massive newsrooms fail to accept change in a timely manner is one reason and one reason only: massive failure of a single person’s leadership, a anti-decision mostly driven by ego and cowardice.
None of these editors, mostly in their 50s and 60s, want to embrace definitive change at this stage in their career. And most of them, from what I have personally witnessed, are egomaniacs who cannot fathom that the “entire business model and editorial model” for their career turned out to be obsolete. They will let their business fail before they admit they were wrong.
That self-centered attitude just strikes me as disgusting. Even obscene. I think the bigger question becomes: how does a company, or a society, quickly and/or forcibly remove these kinds of egomanical fossils from an important decision-making point?
It’s akin to what I have been reading about the discovery in the last few years of the damage psychopathic individuals have been wreaking in the workplace and the political system. None of these individuals, whether they be politicians or editors, give a damn about the institution or the ideas they are mistakenly entrusted to preserve and lead. They’ll use that gravy train for as long as they can to enrich or enhance themselves before they discard it like a spent condom and go retire, awaiting death. And all of us are harmed for a period of time before nature renders the only final–and worthy–conclusion of these damaged individuals: permanent removal from our world.
What a conundrum society and our morality faces when trying to improve or adapt itself to new situations in a changing world. And more importantly, why are these harmful individuals, with their mental psychoses, put into top positions in our world? More and more I now believe it is an enormous societal failing that we don’t want to examine, with extraordinarily dire consequences for us all.