Monopoly money - Page 2

As the ax falls at the Chronicle, observers ponder whether a MediaNews cure could be worse than the disease

It was clearly part of a larger plan to get rid of this operating agreement for exemption from antitrust [laws]."

Other critics believe that large newspapers, which are tied to huge printing presses and gas-guzzling delivery trucks, could become extinct, and that nimbler prototypes that deliver news by mobile phone and integrate social networking on their Web sites could assume the old media's traditional role as public watchdogs.

Jeff Elder, who is studying the newspaper industry as a Knight fellow at Stanford University, told the Guardian, "You either see a daily newspaper as an old railroad station, a really cool part of the city's history that you maybe can't afford to save, or an at-risk public school whose continuance is fundamental to democracy."

Elder, a columnist for the Charlotte Observer, was one of a wide variety of media professionals (including Guardian publisher Bruce B. Brugmann), who gathered March 17 in the San Francisco Public Library to discuss the Chronicle's future.

"There is no minimizing that it's a real sad situation for the people being laid off," Elder said. "But there is a real danger in propping up print products by strengthening monopolies. You're draining off resources while propping up a business model that is becoming increasingly irrelevant."