What was wrong with newspapers in 1965

Nearly 50 years ago, Newsweek lodged these complaints against newspaper bosses:
“Many papers have had the same old-guard ownership and management for decades. These men are complacent, see no serious fault with their papers. They live in the past; in theory, they agree that to thrive a daily must present more and better local news but they hire no extra reporters. They still run columnists who are not even scanned by the present generation. And when questioned about their newspapers, they go off the record, as if publishing were the most sacred of cows.”


After Newsweek editor Jim Impoco tweeted this cover over the weekend, I went to the library to read the story from 1965. Some highlights:

Papers aren’t keeping up with technology
“With a few notable exceptions, like The New York Times, a dismayingly large number of papers have become fat, smug and, of all things for a daily paper, out of date. It is no sin to fall behind the Times, but they have fallen behind the times — technologically, as employers and, most damningly, in the professional tasks of reporting, writing and editing the news.”

A dart for the Times-Picayune
“Some papers seem almost contemptuous of their readers. The Newhouse chain’s New Orleans Times-Picayune has no regular education, science or medicine writer. ‘People here are more interested in other types of features,’ explains the paper’s president, John F. Tims.”

Slop for the readers
“Many newspapers appear to be assembled rather than edited with any care. Like housewives uninterested in the meals they serve, many editors are content to dish out the canned goods furnished by the syndicate salesman and by the Associated Press and United Press International. …Too often the packaged column substitutes for a local point of view.”

Lousy pay for journalists
“On the average paper, salaries are as laggard as imagination. The top American Newspaper Guild scale for a journeyman reporter averages under $150 a week. With perhaps three exceptions – The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times – salaries at non-guild papers are worse. Starting salaries top $100 a week at only 25 guild papers. In Austin, Texas, the morning American and afternoon Statesman pay starting reporters $60 a week.”

The newspaper of the future
John Diebold – a pioneer in automation – suggests that papers “may be transmitted into the home via television, then printed on a copier under the set.” He adds: “I’ve never seen an industry that will be more completely changed than the newspaper industry, and one that realizes it less. Tomorrow’s newspapers may not be in the same form as we know them today.”

The New York Times isn’t worried about profits
“Last year [1964], the Times grossed more than $136 million and made a profit of $2.7 million from its newspaper operations. Most publishers would regard a mere 2 percent margin with dismay, but [Arthur Ochs] Sulzberger rests on the family tradition: ‘We put back in what we think is required to publish. The budget goes out the window when anything pops.'”

Praise for the Wall Street Journal
“While many papers still tiptoe around stories involving business, the Journal is not afraid to go after the Establishment it serves. Last year, for example, when Journal reporter Norman Miller won a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the DeAngelis salad oil scandal, his story soiled the button-downs of many avid Journal readers.”