Lots of news over the past few weeks about the plight of American newspapers. Here are some of the links I’ve been reading:
Editor and Publisher reports that several cities could have no daily paper by 2010, according to a newspaper credit rater.
The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press have just announced 9% job cuts and, perhaps more alarming, that the papers will stop daily home delivery. A daily edition will still be produced and sold through newsstands and coin-boxes, but will only be delivered to home subscribers on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. The move is being billed as a way to shift focus to online readership, and an exact copy of the daily edition (hopefully not a pdf…ugh) will be available to subscribers online everyday. Analysts wonder if it’s a big enough step to forestall the papers’ problems and whether readers will continue to read the papers. David Hunke, CEO of the Detroit Media Partnership, which operates both papers under a Joint Operating Agreement, says that there’s no possibility of Detroit becoming a one paper town.
Like many other papers, the Newark Star-Ledger recently cut half of its newsroom staff. The paper has since announced that they are doubling their internship program, hiring up to 20 interns for one-year positions, paid but without benefits. From the NPPA’s coverage, there’s something strange going on here: “Some journalism professionals might see it as ironic that the Star-Ledger’s owners are comfortable with inexperienced interns as reporters and copy editors, while at the same time advertising for experienced advertising sales people for jobs that include full medical coverage and a pension, a 401K, and salaries with earnings in six figures.”
Tina Brown opines in her Daily Beast column about the layoffs hitting newsrooms and wonders why the “feckless bureaucrats who are running the place” (and who likely made many of the business decisions that got us here today) aren’t getting pink slips.
The Tribune company, which owns the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, has begun the early stages of bankruptcy proceedings. There’s coverage all over the place, but the Guardian has some good perspective I hadn’t seen elsewhere, including the weird nugget about the Chicago Tribune’s spelling policy from 1934 to 1955 when it was published by a man referred to as the Colonel who thought “frate” and “altho” and “burocratic” worked better in the paper.
The multi-pulitzer-winning, and beautiful-photo-running, Rocky Mountain News is up for sale and will be closed if a buyer isn’t found by mid-January. Current and former staffers have started a website, IwantmyRocky.com, as a community focal point for the effort to save the paper. The CEO of the paper’s owner has said that closure isn’t the only option for the paper, but that as early as Nov. 19, the E. W. Scripps Co., had plans to close the Rocky “as soon as practical”. There are vague reports of a “handful” of potential buyers for the paper.
The New York Times has mortgaged its new building in order to borrow $225 million dollars and ease cashflow problems in 2009. The New York Times Company expects one of its “most challenging years” next year. Gawker mentions the horrible timing of the New York Times: its old building tripled in value between when it was sold in 2004 and when the new building was ready to use in 2007.
Associated Press writers and photographers have staged a 3-day byline strike to protest the company’s proposals during contract negotiations. Striking staffers have also stopped using personal equipment (cell phones and cars, for instance) during the strike. The Associated Press is a non-profit owned by a coalition of 1500 newspapers. A number of newspaper companies, including the Tribune Company, have announced plans to drop their AP contracts. A group of Ohio newspapers intend to create a statewide news-sharing agreement because they feel the AP’s new fees and reduced coverage of local issues don’t take into account newspapers’ current financial hardships. Interestingly, many newspapers are going up against a conflict of interest with this because their owners are often represented on the AP’s board of directors.
The great film critic Roger Ebert sees the disappearance of newspaper film critics as a bellwether of the industry. He blames the cult of celebrity for bringing down the journalism business. I don’t know if I buy it, but his last line is great. “The news is still big. It’s the newspapers that got small.”
Oh man. That’s a lot of bad news. Go to Cute Overload for a while. And here are a few examples of why people feel newspapers are necessary.