No more local papers

The big story today involves the problems that the Washington Post are currently facing. The Post will close three U.S. bureaus (Chicago, Los Angeles, New York) by the end of the year to cut costs. The Post said that the six correspondents in those three cities “will be offered reassignments in Washington, while three news assistants will be let go.”

Like any newspaper, times are obviously tough. But those that are weathering the storm and will survive the information age are the ones that understand the importance of the internet. There is multimedia, podcasts, photo slideshows and all kinds of new media right now. It’s constantly expanding and pretty soon we’ll be in a Web 3.0 world.

The thing that surprises me through all of this is that some newspapers — and some are no more stubborn than the Washington Post — can’t grasp the fact that newspapers are local anymore. The Post is a national paper. Heck, the Post is an international paper. I would guess, and I would bet money on this, that the most of the readers who head to the Post’s website do so for national and international news. Even what happens in Washington (e.g. legislation and politics) has an impact on a national and international level.

A post on True/Slant by Ethan Epstein discuss this as well. He writes that “despite what the editor of the Post pretends not to realize, in the age of the internet, all news organizations are national news organizations.”

This could not be truer. Newspapers no longer cater to their local setting, they can be read online by anybody, anywhere, at any time of the day. Locals are not the only ones who care to read about a newspaper. I go to the New York Times’ website, but I don’t live in that city. I’ve visited the Post’s site, but I don’t live in Washington. There are many, many different newspaper websites that I have stumbled upon that I have never even visited.

The truth of the matter is that there newspapers and journalists don’t belong in just one city. They can be “located” there, but that’s not where the news is. The newspapers that succeed will report on what the people want. And considering the people are all over the world, that’s what they will do.

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6 Comments

Filed under Journalism, Media, Newspapers

6 responses to “No more local papers

  1. Todd Fitchette

    I couldn’t disagree more. The truly local newspapers, those who’s publication rates are less than daily, have a huge advantage over their larger cousins; part of this advantage is for the reasons you state.
    I’ve worked for community-based weeklies and one tri-weekly newspaper. I’ve also worked for a couple of dailies. The problem with the dailies is they try to be all things to all people and they spread themselves too thin. The weeklies do well because they focus on LOCAL news… information that is important to folks living within a certain geographic area. For those in rural settings they also tend to have a monopoly or near monopoly on advertising, which helps out greatly.
    Another reason these small, community-based weeklies do well is they don’t waste money on wire services and the syndicated crap that daily copy editors run to in order to fill pages as fast as possible.
    It’s why newspaper circulation in the daily category is shrinking like it is. People have left because there’s no more local news; advertisers have left because readers stopped buying newspapers. If you want to succeed in journalism, turn this around by once-again allowing the editorial dog to wag the advertising tail instead of the other way around.
    This doesn’t even begin to address the abysmally poor job that newspapers in general have done in covering the news. Editors treat the public like infants and teach their reporters to do likewise; they force-feed the public stories they dislike or simply can’t stomach. Reporters aren’t allowed to actually do real news because publishers are too busy trying to reinvent the newspaper six times a year, or roughly the frequency of time they spend attending workshops to find out why their products are bleeding.
    If you’re smart you’ll change your major while you have a chance. The job prospects out here are nil, and if you find a job in journalism, you’ll be working minimum wage for a company that’s only focus is filling white space with text, regardless of where it comes from or whether people want to read it.

    • Todd,

      I appreciate your feedback and hope that you’ll stick around as I expand this blog.

      That said, I definitely understand where you are coming from and what you’ve said makes sense. I should have expanded a little more in this post. First, most newspapers will eventually learn that heads of these papers cannot determine the news, the people will (through sites like Twitter and other independent news sources). And second, some local newspapers will survive, so long as they maintain a niche local print readership. That, however, will soon end as older generations move out of top positions at papers and the new generations move in.

      As for the second part of your comment, I agree (somewhat and for the most part) that editors have done a poor job in treating the public – other than the fact that they gave away all of their content for free.

      But as for your last part, I have to wholeheartedly disagree with you. I would never want to change my major because I’m in the generation that is going to fix the problems facing newspapers. I’m – and I don’t mean myself personally, although I hope so – part of the solution, not the problem.

  2. Todd Fitchette

    Jay
    I wish you luck and success in the newspaper industry. I’m one of those folks who tend to think that a physical piece of paper with ink on it is vital to a free society. You can cut power to the Internet, but a newspaper might be more difficult for a tyrannical government to stop.
    That aside, I speak from personal experience and knowledge. We have local papers here in Central California still paying less than $10 an hour. Our state minimum wage is currently $8.
    I’m no longer in journalism because the jobs that do exist literally pay poverty wages… I can make more money as a substitute teacher on a part time basis.
    I want to take my journalism degree and use it to teach high school English and journalism. I want to teach journalism because it has more positive implications that can transfer into the business world in career fields that pay a living wage.
    If you want to do journalism I encourage you to use it as a platform to find something more lucrative and financially satisfying.
    Be curious; don’t stop asking questions; always strive to learn more about things you don’t know; and above all, be personable with those you come in contact with. People who like you and trust you will help your career in more ways than you can count.

    • Todd,

      I appreciate your input and I wish the outlook for the newspaper industry was a lot better than it is. With that, I guess I’m not necessarily heading into the newspaper field, but rather the journalism field. Newspapers are dying, journalism is not (well, depending on your feelings about blogs and social networking/media).

      I couldn’t agree more with that last part of your comment. I wouldn’t even be where I am, still young and only an editor at a college newspaper, if was not for my connections and establishing good relationships. That’s something I’ve learned along my career: it’s who you know that will help you advance.

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