"If you're on a ship," he responded," and it's taking on water and the
engine house is on fire and life boats are out on sea and maybe even
the captain's out there, you're probably going to yell louder about the
boat sinking than the people on the shore."
The engine house is on fire? Oh, my.
Even though Bronstein said at the beginning of the interview that several factors had contributed to the decline of newspapers, discussion focused on the internets. Among the problems are the fact
that Google turns a profit selling advertising partly due to news
content it pulls for free and that newspapers made the choice to allow
people free access to their online content. Colbert compared print
media's woes to that of the music industry when it was first learning
to deal with online file sharing, eventually turning the problem into
a money-making venture. It was hard to tell whether or not Bronstein
was joking when he pointed out that people who illegally downloaded
music were risking prison time, saying, "Maybe there should be a jail
term for people who don't pay for their news."
Bronstein allowed that the paper part of newspapers might go away. The
important thing to preserve, he said, was rooms full of journalists.
Blogs and the Huffington Post wouldn't be breaking news stories like child abuse in the Catholic Church, he said.
The conversation neatly summed up what we already don't know: How newspapers can gracefully and successfully transition from print to online and still manage to pay their reporters.
Perhaps the most telling and outrageous moment of the evening was when
Bronstein told Colbert, " One of your interns was telling me she got
her news from AOL.com."
Ok, first of all, does this intern go around
telling the entertainment industry guests, "Oh, I never watch your
movies," or the professional sports players, "Baseball bores me?" Who
taught this intern manners?
Second (and most importantly): AOL? Seriously? Does this intern have
dial-up? Is he or she a grandparent? This intern works in media, on a show
that trades in current events, has the unlimited access to information
afforded everyone with an internet connection, and when
chatting with the former editor of a major newspaper the site that
floats to the forefront of his or her mind is AOL News?
Stephen Colbert, it is time to thin the ranks.
For Bronstein's take on his appearance, check back at his blog.