You may have heard on the news that America's largest newspapers are in serious financial trouble. In fact, don't be surprised to see several begin to close their doors.
On Monday, the Tribune Company, which owns the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, filed for bankruptcy. The New York Times Company followed by saying it might mortgage its beautiful headquarters - a building by Times Square - to reduce debt.
The San Francisco Chronicle has been losing $1 million a week for some time. Mid-size newspapers such as the Amarillo Globe-News and Lubbock Avalanche Journal are feeling it as well.
Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, put it like this: “Good journalism does not come cheap. And, therefore, you’re not going to find a lot of blogs or non-profit websites that are going to build a Baghdad bureau.”
Thankfully, the market for smaller newspapers like the one you are reading are not facing the same economic hardship.
Let's face it, in today's world, the need for 130 pages in a newspaper simply does not exist ... particularly at $1.50 or more per issue. The Internet and the duplication of news by several sources (weather, Washington, D.C., major stories) has helped in placing these newspapers in peril. The poor economy is sending them over the edge.
The government should not even consider helping these institutions out and I'd be shocked if it were ever seriously considered. That would be a disaster. The last thing we need is newspapers under the control (even if it is merely financial) of the U.S. government. Anything being perceived as a state-controlled media as terrible. See Iran, Russia and China as an example of countries in which the government controls the media.
Nor should the government bail out companies such as GE, which owns NBC. Again, such a bailout could be seen as the government getting involved in media. In my eyes, it's a clear violation of free press.
Anyhow, the way information has been collected and disseminated to the vast majority of Americans is changing by the week. The day of giant newspapers having reporters across the globe is quickly coming to an end.
I foresee a time when newspapers in Dallas, Houston, Denver, etc. cease to exist at all in the form we see them now. We'll continue to see an evolution of them until they are completely online. In the meantime, you'll see many more smaller newspapers rise up and take their place. Why? Because people can afford them and they still want to see their children and grandchildren participating in events. You'll continue to have the Dallas Morning News replaced by weekly or twice-weekly newspapers in Rockwall, Grand Prairie, Flower Mound, etc... News about Dallas can be found online at home or at work, but the story and photo about the local team can only be found in the local paper.
Don't get me wrong, it is wise for the smaller markets to develop online editions as well, but the need for major cutbacks and a complete overhaul is not there. When you're a giant, with a dozen offices and a couple of thousand employees which are in various unions, and much of what you do faces competition from ten other sources, it's plain to see what's coming. The fact that many of the largest newspapers in this country put off massive change will be their demise.
Meanwhile, small-town newspapers will quickly streamline and continue to produce an efficient product. It's ironic that us small guys can continue to plug along while the grand old ladies go to pasture. Usually, the massive corporations continue to grow while the small guy suffers.
Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2008