Monday, December 15, 2008

Newspapers RIP; Detroit Raises White Flag

I started my career as a newspaper reporter for the Las Cruces Sun-News. Before that I interned for The Modesto Bee, and I was the editor-in-chief of New Mexico State's student newspaper, the Round Up for two years.

The Round Up is/was/will forever be the best job that I ever had.

When I left NMSU with diploma-in-hand in 1997, I was as "print" as you could be. Man, did I love newspapering.

Read about how cult members become completely devoted to their cause, and that is how I felt about the institution of the daily newspaper.

It was my calling.

Veteran newsman Mack Lundstrom only intensified that love during my Dow Jones Newspaper Fund internship boot camp at San José State that summer. If you ever wanted to love a newspaper, just spend a few hours talking to Mack. He's still my hero.

Many fluke events led me away from the daily newspaper, but I have missed it nearly every day. And it has been especially sad to watch the industry die as the business model implodes.

But I have to admit that I wasn't ready for what I saw today on Twitter, posted by @MarketingProfs:
Detroit newspapers quit print home delivery:
What? How is that even possible? What? OK, maybe in 2018, but 2008? Twenty-bleeping-oh-eight?

It read like a headline from the Onion. But it was painful nonfiction.

According to the Wall Street Journal story:
The Free Press and the News would be the first dailies in a major metropolitan market to curtail home delivery and drastically scale back their print editions. Other newspapers are contemplating similar moves in response to the erosion of advertising and the rising costs of printing and delivery. In October the Christian Science Monitor said it will stop printing a daily newspaper in April and move instead to an online version with a weekly print product.
Insane. Just insane.

I get it -- and I'm even part of the problem with this blog, my Facebook and Twitter pages (follow me on Twitter). And I subscribe to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal only on Sundays. But I just cannot explain the gravitas with which this hits me.

Being in my mid-30's makes me feel antiquated and irrelevant, but this makes me feel as if I have one foot in the grave.

No home delivery -- even on most days -- is a white flag of irreversible consequence.

Internet, I love you. But you took just 14 years to deliver a coup de grâce to my first love. And for that I can never forgive you.

Say it ain't so.

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Blogger Tim Laubacher said...

It's painful to fathom how this trend will affect what's "news."

Sure, many people currently get all of their news online, on TV and on the radio. But for those who choose to read a newspaper, this could put a stop to certain types of news they're used to receiving.

I think about my dad. He loves reading the newspaper, pretty much every day. He's not so much into the Internet. If the Repository were to stop delivery papers, would my dad start using a computer to get his news? Maybe, but probably not.

So for people in that situation, the news might be narrowed to what can be seen on TV. That could mean less local stories and more of a suburb or country resident hearing mostly news from the nearest media market.

There's plenty to think about it, and I'm with you on this one Sam. I don't like it. I never really worked within the newspaper industry, but I did deliver papers as a kid. I guess the first job for many will no longer be paper delivery. Maybe cable/Internet hook up will be where kids earn their first dollars.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still think this can work, it's still a matter of making the online version financially viable. For so long, I listened to my publishers bemoan the cost of newsprint, gas, delivery drivers as contractors, and a union back shop. Readership is up more than ever, it just needs a method to end the madness...

8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frankly, I think a Sunday edition, and maybe even a Saturday edition, is the way to go. Or maybe Sunday and Wednesdays. The agenda role is not print hard-copy related anymore. So it needs to adapt. And momma we're way behind the curve on this one...the Rocky Mountain News is also folding, for those of you scoring at home (and even those of you who are alone...)

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think a new platform is the end to the news business, just to the hard-copy paper. Newspapers were so far behind the technological curve it was pathetic -- and inexcusable. Have a big Sunday paper, a mid-week magazine, and a Web site that is updated daily. Newspapers took their role in the world for granted and sat on their collective hands while the Internet took over as a delivery means. That's a shame, especially since the New York Times has 40 million readers today counting online -- readership is soaring in other words.

9:24 AM  

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