The Death of Newspapers, Act I

Reading the comment section on its own website, you’d come away thinking that the most recent cost-saving measure being implemented at The News Leader is the result of its “liberal bias.” The truth is a lot more complicated, as it usually is.
The paper is requiring all salaried and hourly employees to take a five-day unpaid furlough that publisher Roger Watson put in interesting perspective. The word of the furloughs is “a lot more welcome news than telling people they don’t have a job at all,” Watson was quoted in an item on the Leader website today.

The move is part of an effort by the paper’s parent company, Gannett, to cut costs across the board in its U.S. Community Publishing Division. It comes on the heels of another cost-cutting measure in December that saw the Leader reduce its workforce by 20 percent.

Gannett and the Leader are hardly alone in facing these kinds of tough decisions. The New York Times is mortgaging its headquarters to ease issues with cash flow, the Boston Globe is cutting 50 newsroom jobs, the papers in Detroit are cutting daily deliveries, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer could be ceasing operations in the coming weeks, and the list goes on.

I’ve been giving this little talk to local civic groups for four years now about how the media business is a-changin’, and how in 10 years we won’t see daily papers in small markets like the Staunton-Waynesboro market because the economics of the media industry will dictate that the new and more efficient delivery mechanism that is the Internet be employed to its full potential. Looks like I was generous in terms of the length of time that I was projecting out and also in terms of the size of the markets that would be affected.

We just might be seeing the Great Recession acting like a forest fire that pushes the growth of a new and sturdier forest in the near-term media future.

 

– Story by Chris Graham


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