The slow-moving catastrophe that is the newspaper industry death spiral . . .

Pinehawk

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Sep 16, 2003
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I’ll go buy a physical newspaper sometimes on weekends. But, I’m then I’m almost always disappointed that it’s so thin, and just full of AP articles. Maybe one or two original local stories.
So then I get upset, and don’t want to buy it again…which is part of why they have cut staff and don’t do local stories. Vicious circle.
 
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SeaPA

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Dec 17, 2002
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And Florida newspapers are probably in the best shape of any in the country. Lots of old retirees (the key newspaper subscriber demographic now), a history of excellent watchdog coverage due to Florida's liberal "sunshine" laws and good competition historically between papers.

If it's bad there, it is atrocious everywhere else.

In the Tampa area, the Tampa Tribune (which was the Tampa daily) shut down around 6 years ago. What was the St Petersburg Times (St Pete daily) renamed to the Tampa Bay Times; during Covid, it cut back to two days a week - Wednesday & Sunday. It is still a terrific paper with some great writers & reporters; they regularly do investigative or human interest series that are run in parts over four or five publishing days.

I will continue to subscribe as long as it is in existence.
 

torbee

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torbee - When I started my weekly salary was $110 and I got another $400 a month for expenses. I was able to rent a pretty nice one bedroom near Drake for $190 a month...but I could only sign a 6 month lease because my gig only ran from December 1 to May 31. I did get a raise in my 2nd year to $120 a week, but my expense allowance did not change. In the summers I worked for a local hog farmer and got paid $175 a week. In between my first and second year I got married and after that first Christmas she begged me to just be a farmhand instead as we would have been better off by a couple hundred each month...and that was back when a couple hundred was real money.
First job in 1995: $15,500 a year. And it was salary, not hourly. I covered city council, county government, a school district, cops and courts. I also shot sports and feature photos and I wrote a weekly column. Regularly worked 60-70 hours a week.

Loved most of it, hated some of it. It was intense, demanding but rewarding.
 

torbee

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I’ll go buy a physical newspaper sometimes on weekends. But, I’m then I’m almost always disappointed that it’s so thin, and just full of AP articles. Maybe one or two original local stories.
So then I get upset, and don’t want to buy it again…which is part of why they have cut staff and don’t do local stories. Vicious circle.
It was a vicious circle - but that’s recoverable with good leadership.

It is now a death spiral.
 
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Nole-4-Life

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Jun 7, 2005
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I had a small community newspaper. Was run by my father since about 1963, I took over in 1982. It was pretty nice moneymaker at the time. Saw the handwriting on the wall and sold out in 1998. It was good timing and glad I sold. The internet killed it.

The people who bought it kept it going for about 15 years, I have no idea how. They had hardly any advertising. they eventually folded.
 
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OrlandNole

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Nov 29, 2003
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Nashvegas
In 1999, Lee Enterprises bought another Pulitzer property: the Ravalli Republic in Hamilton, Montana, circulation 5,200. The 23 full-timers and 23 part-timers at the daily had to reapply for their jobs. Only eight got them.
And herein lies a big part of the problem. Why does a newspaper with a circulation of just over 5,000 need 46 staffers? That's almost one employee per 100 subscribers.
 

SWIowahawks

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Sep 2, 2006
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Tabor
CSB. The doctors office where my daughter had an appt this morning was stocked with a fresh newspaper. My 5 year old asked “what’s that?” I tried my best to describe it to her. Before I could finish, her nose was back in her tablet.

As an aside, I finished my first ever crossword puzzle. I feel so smart now.
 

CloydWebb

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I still get my daily paper - currently the Philadelphia Inquirer. Newspapers have been, for decades, the best place to get thorough and accurate information. That people now get their "news" from Twitter and Facebook is not just sad, it's dangerous.

And getting your news from a television network that has aligned itself with one political party, a complete abrogation of the bedrock of journalistic ethics, is even more dangerous.
 

CloydWebb

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I don't think this is some nefarious right-wing conspiracy. The vast preponderance of problems in the industry are self-induced......

Like when the Des Moines Register's largest single advertiser was Pidgeon's Furniture UNTIL the geniuses at the Register decided to run a massive Sunday spread on why the Nebraska Furniture Mart (zero advertising dollars spent with the Register) was THE BEST place to buy your furniture in the entire Universe.

That kind of self induced?
 

pjhawk

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Oct 13, 2001
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Is Beau Elliott still alive ;) ?
Looks like the dude was doing his column at least up to 2019. I forgot about him.

And if anyone cares, it looks like the DI this summer is doing a physical copy one day a week. I picked one up last week from one of the machines downtown just for old times sake but I haven't looked at it yet....life in 2022.

 
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ICWestfan

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Looks like the dude was doing his column at least up to 2019. I forgot about him.

And if anyone cares, it looks like the DI this summer is doing a physical copy one day a week. I picked one up last week from one of the machines downtown just for old times sake but I haven't looked at it yet....life in 2022.

Do you subscribe to the internet version? I do for the UI sports.
 
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The Tradition

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Apr 23, 2002
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So today my local fishwrap ran a story about the decline of shopping malls in Tampa.

Tampa is on the other side of the state! There are plenty of declining malls right here locally. Why do they think I care what's happening in Tampa?
 

VodkaSam

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Looks like the dude was doing his column at least up to 2019. I forgot about him.

And if anyone cares, it looks like the DI this summer is doing a physical copy one day a week. I picked one up last week from one of the machines downtown just for old times sake but I haven't looked at it yet....life in 2022.

Sad. I remember getting the Daily Iowan free (5 days/week?), while at Iowa from 81-86. Great student journalism. Hate to see it go the way of every other newspaper, but, I guess, I get it.

I haven't bought a physical newspaper in over a year, so I’m part of the problem/reason/cause.
 
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Tfxchawk

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There easily could be a return to good local journalism but it isn't going to come through regular media channels. It will need to be grassroots and entrepreneurial. People would love to have local reporting again and local advertising would help. There aren't good local papers any longer because those outlets were gobbled up by larger enterprises or they refuse to change their business model. The gazette is ok but isn't going to change that much and will eventually die like the rest. No one is going to buy print media ever again and they aren't going to subscribe to a paper that is pushing stories you can get online for free. People do still want to see their kid in the paper when they are a good athlete. They want to know what their local leaders in city government and the schools are doing. They want to some degree to know what is happening at the state level. They don't care about the reporters slant on things and due to social media they will find out if a reporter is biased. Vanessa comes to mind. She is a hack and everyone knows she hates the university of iowa. Who wants to subscribe to that and have her continue to flood poison and distortion? No one wants pollyanna either by the way.

When some young enterprising journalism major figures out he or she can start their own local online paper and make money they will do it. If they do it correctly they can franchise the model and make bank. Until then we will watch the death of old media
 
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Feb 25, 2008
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Was doing a little archive searching today on a project, and came across this 2005 story about the takeover of the Pulitzer newspaper chain by Lee (hey, even a Torbee sighting in there!) and this particular part of the story hit me like a ton of bricks:



In 1999, Lee Enterprises bought another Pulitzer property: the Ravalli Republic in Hamilton, Montana, circulation 5,200. The 23 full-timers and 23 part-timers at the daily had to reapply for their jobs. Only eight got them.

Now, the fact that only about 1/3 of the news staff of that newly acquired Lee paper retained their jobs is not remarkable at all --- that's just business-as-usual for Lee and most newspaper chains.
But what is remarkable is that the Ravalli Republic --- the 5,200 circulation paper in a town of 3,700 in the 2000 census ---- had 46 FULL AND PART-TIME STAFFERS!!

That has to be at least twice as many employees as the Quad City Times (reported circulation of 46,000) in a city of 100,000 in a metro area of 300,000 has today. Maybe two-thirds as many, I've lost count as the casualties have mounted. When I was editing the ICPC three years ago, we had seven full-time staffers and a couple correspondents (not even part time, paid by the story.) And that was supposed to be enough to cover a city of 70K or so that also is home to a world-class research university and the largest hospital system in Iowa.

Let that sink in.

Anyone that tells you that today's newspapers with today's staffing are able to do anywhere NEAR the level of reporting and watchdog work as they were able to do 15 to 20 years ago is simply lying to you.
I say mutiny.....
 
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torbee - When I started my weekly salary was $110 and I got another $400 a month for expenses. I was able to rent a pretty nice one bedroom near Drake for $190 a month...but I could only sign a 6 month lease because my gig only ran from December 1 to May 31. I did get a raise in my 2nd year to $120 a week, but my expense allowance did not change. In the summers I worked for a local hog farmer and got paid $175 a week. In between my first and second year I got married and after that first Christmas she begged me to just be a farmhand instead as we would have been better off by a couple hundred each month...and that was back when a couple hundred was real money.
That kind of a salary would last a normal person about a solid month and a half, maybe two nowadays...........though you could probably stretch it further if you did nothing but work, eat once a day, pay bills and sleep.

Great times! :)
 

torbee

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Gold Member
The Villages Daily Sun is located in a metro area of 129,752 people. But it sells more print copies on an average weekday than the:

— Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (metro population: 2,053,232),
— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (2,657,149),
— Charlotte Observer (2,822,352),
— The (Baltimore) Sun (2,844,510),
— St. Louis Post-Dispatch (2,909,003),
— The (Portland) Oregonian (3,280,736), or
— The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer (3,633,962).

Or take an even bigger market: Atlanta, the 10th largest metro area in America, with a metro population of 6,930,423. On an average weekday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sells 49,243 print newspapers. The Villages Daily Sun sells 49,183.

 
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torbee

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The 20 U.S. newspapers with the highest circulation in 2000, with 2022 print circulation

RankNewspaper20002022Decrease
1USA Today1,777,488159,23391.0%
2The Wall Street Journal1,762,751697,49360.4%
3The New York Times1,097,180329,78169.9%
4Los Angeles Times1,033,399142,64986.2%
5The Washington Post762,009159,04079.1%
6New York Daily News704,46355,65392.1%
7Chicago Tribune618,097106,15682.8%
8Newsday (Long Island)576,34597,18283.1%
9Houston Chronicle546,79965,08488.1%
10The Dallas Morning News513,03665,36987.3%
11Chicago Sun-Times471,03157,22287.9%
12The Boston Globe464,47268,80685.2%
13San Francisco Chronicle457,02860,09886.9%
14The Arizona Republic445,32270,21684.2%
15New York Post443,951146,64967.0%
16Denver Rocky Mountain News426,4650100.0%
17The Denver Post420,03357,26586.4%
18The Star-Ledger (Newark)407,53744,14989.2%
19The Philadelphia Inquirer400,38561,18084.7%
20Star Tribune (Minneapolis)366,357103,80871.7%
Total13,694,1482,547,03381.4%
Sources: Press Gazette, Audit Bureau of Circulations (2000), and Alliance for Audited Media (2022). 2000 figures are average Monday-Friday print circulation for the six months ending Sept. 30, 2022. 2022 figures are the same for the period ending March 31, 2022, except for two (Chicago and Denver) where the latest audited data available was for the period ending Sept. 30, 2021.
 
Feb 9, 2013
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The 20 U.S. newspapers with the highest circulation in 2000, with 2022 print circulation

RankNewspaper20002022Decrease
1USA Today1,777,488159,23391.0%
2The Wall Street Journal1,762,751697,49360.4%
3The New York Times1,097,180329,78169.9%
4Los Angeles Times1,033,399142,64986.2%
5The Washington Post762,009159,04079.1%
6New York Daily News704,46355,65392.1%
7Chicago Tribune618,097106,15682.8%
8Newsday (Long Island)576,34597,18283.1%
9Houston Chronicle546,79965,08488.1%
10The Dallas Morning News513,03665,36987.3%
11Chicago Sun-Times471,03157,22287.9%
12The Boston Globe464,47268,80685.2%
13San Francisco Chronicle457,02860,09886.9%
14The Arizona Republic445,32270,21684.2%
15New York Post443,951146,64967.0%
16Denver Rocky Mountain News426,4650100.0%
17The Denver Post420,03357,26586.4%
18The Star-Ledger (Newark)407,53744,14989.2%
19The Philadelphia Inquirer400,38561,18084.7%
20Star Tribune (Minneapolis)366,357103,80871.7%
Total13,694,1482,547,03381.4%
Sources: Press Gazette, Audit Bureau of Circulations (2000), and Alliance for Audited Media (2022). 2000 figures are average Monday-Friday print circulation for the six months ending Sept. 30, 2022. 2022 figures are the same for the period ending March 31, 2022, except for two (Chicago and Denver) where the latest audited data available was for the period ending Sept. 30, 2021.
Sad
 
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torbee

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Old people love newspapers.
Well they remember when they were engaging, useful and full of well-reported, interesting stories.

It's crazy, I was looking at an old Moline Dispatch from 2001 (not REALLY that long ago) and a random Wednesday paper had more local news with bylined, multi-source stories in it than the current Quad City Times has in a full week, including its Sunday edition.

I don't think many people realize how massive of a change it's been, as it happened slowly and gradually over 20 years, but if you go back and do a side-by-side comparison of a typical daily today to the same masthead even 10-15 years ago, it is stark.
 

The Tradition

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Apr 23, 2002
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NEW YORK (AP) — Despite a growing recognition of the problem, the United States continues to see newspapers die at the rate of two per week, according to a report issued Wednesday on the state of local news.

Areas of the country that find themselves without a reliable source of local news tend to be poorer, older and less educated than those covered well, Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications said.

The country had 6,377 newspapers at the end of May, down from 8,891 in 2005, the report said. While the pandemic didn’t quite cause the reckoning that some in the industry feared, 360 newspapers have shut down since the end of 2019, all but 24 of them weeklies serving small communities.

An estimated 75,000 journalists worked in newspapers in 2006, and now that’s down to 31,000, Northwestern said. Annual newspaper revenue slipped from $50 billion to $21 billion in the same period.

Even though philanthropists and politicians have been paying more attention to the issue, the factors that drove the collapse of the industry’s advertising model haven’t changed. Encouraging growth in the digital-only news sector in recent years hasn’t been enough to compensate for the overall trends, said Penelope Muse Abernathy, visiting professor at Medill and the report’s principal author.

Many of the digital-only sites are focused on single issues and are clustered in or close to big cities near the philanthropic money that provides much of their funding, the report said.

News “deserts” are growing: The report estimated that some 70 million Americans live in a county with either no local news organization or only one.

“What’s really at stake in that is our own democracy, as well as our social and societal cohesion,” Abernathy said.

True “daily” newspapers that are printed and distributed seven days a week are also dwindling; The report said 40 of the largest 100 newspapers in the country publish only- digital versions at least once a week. Inflation is likely to hasten a switch away from printed editions, said Tim Franklin, director of the Medill Local News Initiative.

Much of the industry churn is driven by the growth in newspaper chains, including new regional chains that have bought hundreds of newspapers in small or mid-sized markets, the report said.

Less than a third of the country’s 5,147 weekly newspapers and a dozen of 150 city and regional daily papers are now locally-owned and operated, Medill said.

Abernathy’s report pointed to a handful of “local heroes” to counter the pessimism that the raw numbers provide. One is Sharon Burton, publisher and editor of the Adair County Community Voice in Kentucky, where she pushes her staff toward aggressive journalism while also successfully lobbying to expand postal subsidies for rural newspapers.

 

torbee

HR King
Gold Member
NEW YORK (AP) — Despite a growing recognition of the problem, the United States continues to see newspapers die at the rate of two per week, according to a report issued Wednesday on the state of local news.

Areas of the country that find themselves without a reliable source of local news tend to be poorer, older and less educated than those covered well, Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications said.

The country had 6,377 newspapers at the end of May, down from 8,891 in 2005, the report said. While the pandemic didn’t quite cause the reckoning that some in the industry feared, 360 newspapers have shut down since the end of 2019, all but 24 of them weeklies serving small communities.

An estimated 75,000 journalists worked in newspapers in 2006, and now that’s down to 31,000, Northwestern said. Annual newspaper revenue slipped from $50 billion to $21 billion in the same period.

Even though philanthropists and politicians have been paying more attention to the issue, the factors that drove the collapse of the industry’s advertising model haven’t changed. Encouraging growth in the digital-only news sector in recent years hasn’t been enough to compensate for the overall trends, said Penelope Muse Abernathy, visiting professor at Medill and the report’s principal author.

Many of the digital-only sites are focused on single issues and are clustered in or close to big cities near the philanthropic money that provides much of their funding, the report said.

News “deserts” are growing: The report estimated that some 70 million Americans live in a county with either no local news organization or only one.

“What’s really at stake in that is our own democracy, as well as our social and societal cohesion,” Abernathy said.

True “daily” newspapers that are printed and distributed seven days a week are also dwindling; The report said 40 of the largest 100 newspapers in the country publish only- digital versions at least once a week. Inflation is likely to hasten a switch away from printed editions, said Tim Franklin, director of the Medill Local News Initiative.

Much of the industry churn is driven by the growth in newspaper chains, including new regional chains that have bought hundreds of newspapers in small or mid-sized markets, the report said.

Less than a third of the country’s 5,147 weekly newspapers and a dozen of 150 city and regional daily papers are now locally-owned and operated, Medill said.

Abernathy’s report pointed to a handful of “local heroes” to counter the pessimism that the raw numbers provide. One is Sharon Burton, publisher and editor of the Adair County Community Voice in Kentucky, where she pushes her staff toward aggressive journalism while also successfully lobbying to expand postal subsidies for rural newspapers.

It is going to take a grassroots effort from concerned citizens in smaller communities to come up with a new way to execute the watchdog function of local journalism. I’m not sure what it will look like, but the era of the for-profit newspaper is over.