“These are dark days for the newspaper business. Hearst threatened this week to close the San Francisco Chronicle unless major budget cuts are imposed or a buyer is found, and is prepared to close the Seattle Post-Intelligencer if it cannot be sold before April. Gannett is looking for a buyer for the Tucson Citizen in Arizona.”
n Seattle Times
Today the Rocky Mountain News issued its last edition. Declining revenue from advertisement plunged the final stake into the heart of this Colorado communications institution. RMN was almost 150 years old…April would have marked that milestone. With readership down and the surge of internet media – what does this mean for those of us who love to noodle the daily crossword, coffee in one hand, pen in the other?
This really shouldn’t surprise any of us. The San Jose Merc has resized its paper and downsized its staff. Open up the first section and page 3 will be half the size of the other pages. Advertising has shrunk from multiple pages to one side of a page at best. Gone are the days when the family sat down for breakfast, parents separated by different sections of the paper. It is more likely to be a rushed grab of coffee and a quick check of the Blackberry before everyone is out the door. If the newspaper is going the way of the dodo bird, how will we get our news?
Of course, national information will be churned out by other forms of media, the television and increasingly the internet. But what about local stories, whether they be human interest, regional issues or city politics? Who is going to be our community watchdog? Where will Action Line do its thing?
With ad revenue down, it stands to reason that the smaller community based papers are having the same, if not amplified, struggle of its larger counterparts. So I’ll ask again, where we will get our news?
The first step is to continue to support our community papers – advertise our businesses in them, or buy subscription for home delivery. Let local vendors know that we have seen them in the community rag. Where there are dollars, there are newspapers.
Next, this means that as community members, we will need to be more active in obtaining local information. Our city, county and state representatives are going to have to be more visible and figure out ways to inform the citizenry of important topics and events.
Even then, it is going to be a bumpy road as media continues to be re-defined. Will local news organizations be able to compete for ad dollars on the internet? Maybe, there are some interesting companies on the web promoting zip code based advertising.
As our communications tools evolved into the next generation, the only certainty is that the growth will be painful. The local newspaper might be a decaying institution, but our need to know the who, what, when and why will not wither away. Now, where’s that damn pen?