Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stop the presses

The Charlottesville Daily Progress announced six more layoffs, four in the newsroom. Just across the mountain in Waynesboro, the News Virginian (already a pretty small operation) is laying off one. And a few more miles to the west, a rumor became fact when the News Leader announced it is shutting down its 40 year old Staunton press and will outsource printing to the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg. The News Leader will cut eight full-time and 15 part-time jobs. Publisher Roger Watson says readers won't see much difference, only the printing will no longer be done in Staunton.
Editor David Fritz noted this is part of a nationwide trend hitting smaller newspapers as well as the large ones. Fritz said he didn't expect the News Leader to stop the print edition all together, but noted,
"I can't tell you the last time I've been thoroughly surprised by something I read in print. It's always a case where I heard about it earlier on the internet or on broadcast. Print has not been the medium for breaking news for quite a long time now."
My prediction - within several years, even if the economy improves, the Central Valley will lose at least one print newspaper (maybe a merger) or the papers will rely on their online edition with perhaps a weekly print compilation of local news with a large advertising section. The challenge will be to actually make money with an online edition - yes, that is much cheaper than running the presses, but will people actually pay for something they are now getting for free?
A bit of irony - newspapers' online editions are getting better and better, have interactive discussions, are more timely in reporting breaking news. Newspapers are helping to write their own obituary for the print edition - as more people get news online, fewer subscribe for the print edition and fewer advertisers buy space. Death by success?
As with most societal and economic changes, the ongoing demise of print newspapers has both good and bad consequences.
  • Will newspaper boxes disappear along rural roads? Hardly seems economic or environmentally friendly to have someone driving all the back roads to drop off a skinny newspaper every morning.
  • Will I have to use my own paper and ink to print vendors coupons? Will coupons even survive without a Sunday paper?
  • What will I start the wood stove with? Just crumple up the laptop!
  • Will we have to change laws about legal notices for public hearings? How about hiring a town crier to stand on the courthouse steps?
I grew up in a town with both a morning and an evening paper. Then the evening news on TV killed the evening newspaper. We survived that transition. Now, the internet and 24/7 news on TV is threatening to kill all but the strongest print editions of the daily paper. We'll survive this one, too.
Well, back to the newspaper... I mean laptop. Oh Hell, I'll just grab another cup of coffee and sit in the sun pondering how the loss of another print newspaper may affect my life. Or won't?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Heard today the Waynesboro paper is going totally online and dropping the print. Anybody else heard that?