Friday, May 18, 2012

The demise of the newspaper...

I live in a city that boasts the oldest newspaper in Tennessee.  You would hardly know it from the current incarnation of that paper (The Leaf Chronicle).  It is not local anymore.  Owned by Gannett, the publisher lives in Murfreesboro an hour or more to our south, it is printed in Nashville, and it has but few real reporters (depending more upon what people tell them and what they can glean from Gannett's many resources instead of seeking out the news locally).  I once subscribed to the paper and read it religiously every morning about 5:30 am.  Now I go to the online version a couple of times a week but spend no more than 5-10 minutes a week on what it offers to Clarksville (a city of nearly 140,000 people in a market of about 250,000 people).

There are surely good reasons for this.  We are too close to Nashville to support our own authentic newspaper.  People don't read like they once did.  The interest and 24 hour news cycle have made the printed newspaper obsolete.  You know the ordinary reasons (I would say excuses) for the massive decline in newspapers and their circulation.  I borrowed a comparison of circulation from 1992 to 2012.

Detroit Free Press                     580,372      132,635
San Francisco Chronicle           556,765      165,523
Miami Herald                           404,679      167,057
St. Louis Post Dispatch            339,545      169,608
Orange County Register           332,164      162,921
Boston Herald                          330,614      103,616
Atlanta Constitution                  302,616      163,607
Fort Worth Star-Telegram        256,199       136,624
Louisville Courier-Journal         236,103       136,766
Kansas City Star                      287,119       163,697
New Orleans Times-Picayune  269,639      133,577
Baltimore Sun                          227,706       136,708
Oklahoma City Oklahoman      210,004      116,350

I would offer a completely different reason for the decline in readership and circulation.  Newspapers have shifted from reporting to commentary, from news to fluff about lifestyle, and concentrate more on advertising than on being a, well, newspaper.  In particular, they have given up reporting on religion.  Where we once had long and thoughtful stories on the political, business, lifestyle, and religious news of the day, now we have little tidbits that tell us nothing we did not already know, usually a few weeks late, and without much depth.  Nowhere is this more true than in the reporting on religion.  Most papers have given up reporting on religion.  My own city newspaper doesn't even report on the big religious stories right here in town much less on any religious news from across the nation or the world.

I believe people have given up on newspapers not because they prefer cable news or the internet.  I think the demise of the newspaper is because newspapers have given up on being newspapers.  Predictably liberal in tone, concentrating more on ads than news, having cut back on reporters, circulating the stories written by others instead of reporting on their own local areas, and ignoring religion entirely, the public has judged the newspapers have offering nothing worth the cost.  However, if they ever wanted to be a newspaper, I think there are enough folks like me who would love to begin the morning with a good cup of coffee and a good read.

GetReligion reports on one newspaper that seems to have found how to remain a newspaper and the public reads it just like it did in 1992.  It is the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette;  1992 circulation - 176,741 and 2012 - 175,27!  Guess what -- it spends a good amount of paper and ink on religion and religious news.  Real news.  Go figure...  You can read about it all here.....


Anonymous said...

Newspapers are going the way of the horse and buggy. If the pay for view online content of these publications matches what they have been publishing that too will go down the tubes quickly.

Anonymous said...

They mostly contain propaganda, polemics, and events calendars.

They omit real news because it would upset people, and invent controversies.