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Printed news is spiraling out of existence

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By GEORGE CUSTER/Editor/The Herald  —  Don’t take my word for it, read it for your self. However, you’ll most likely read it online because printed news is quickly disappearing. Social media sites don’t dwell on news, per se. There is, however, lots of news sites and other click bait sites to keep you reading throughout the day when you’re not texting your friends about the latest thing you read about or sending a selfie of you being somewhere where your friends are not.

So, what’s behind all this talk about newspapers disappearing? Didn’t Oakridge just have a printed newspaper a couple of years ago? What happened? Why can’t the Highway 58 Herald just print their stuff?

Well, here’s a glimpse at why it’s not currently feasible.

Mail Tribune forced to quit print

Medford Oregon has a population of about 90,000. Steve Saslow, owner and publisher of the Mail Tribune announced that they are ending printed editions of the paper. They will be delivering news and information online only in the future. The Mail Tribune has been a popular read throughout the entire Rogue Valley.

The Silverton Appeal Tribune and the Stayton Mail, both established in the 1880’s, have recently closed their doors.

The making of news deserts

“In many places, local journalism is dying in plain sight. And it’s having serious damaging effects on the American communities that have lost their newspapers.

Local papers are closing or being consolidated at an astounding rate, often leaving behind what researchers label as news deserts — towns and even entire counties that have no consistent local media coverage.

The loss of a reliable local news source has many consequences for the community. One of them is the inability to watchdog the actions of government agencies and elected officials.

Consider Waynesville, Missouri, where Darrell Todd Maurina is the only local reporter on the scene at Pulaski County courthouse to tell residents what their commissioners are up to. He’s the only one who’ll report on their deliberations about how to satisfy the Federal Emergency Management Agency so it will pay to repair a road inundated during a 2013 flood.

Maurina, who posts his work to Facebook, represents the local press — in its entirety”. (1)

A town’s daily diary

“The reasons for the newspapers’ closures vary. But the result is that many Americans no longer have someone watching the city council for them, chronicling the soccer exploits of their children or reporting on the kindly neighbor who died.

The Daily Guide, which traces to 1962, served the twin towns of Waynesville and St. Robert near the Army’s sprawling Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. It was a family-owned paper into the 1980s before it was sold to a series of corporate owners that culminated with GateHouse Media Inc., the nation’s largest newspaper company.

As recently as 2010, the Daily Guide had four full-time news people, along with a page designer and three ad salespeople.

But people left and weren’t replaced. Last spring, the Daily Guide was cut from five to three days a week. In June, the last newsroom staffer, editor Natalie Sanders, quit — she was burned out, she said. The last edition was published three months later, on Sept. 7.

“It felt like an old friend died,” Sanders said. “I sat and I cried, I really did.””(1)

These are just a couple of stories relating to the downfall of printed newspapers. The internet is full of similar stories with facts to back up the claims.

How much does printed news cost?

The cost to print a newspaper is not just centered on the paper, which is a large part. The machinery that prints newspapers, regardless of the size of the periodical, is huge. It takes up, at the minimum, about the size of one-half of a gymnasium. Think twice or larger than that for papers with a huge circulation like the LA Times. The electricity to run that behemoth? That cost alone would probably power a good portion of our town of Oakridge.

And there’s even more costs

Yes, a lot of the pre-printing stuff is digitized. But, the content has to be paid for. Reporters are paid. (thankfully, The Herald has a handful of dedicated individuals who will to write for free for the sake of keeping news and information in our communities available to all.) Editors, copywrite editors, proofreaders, layout personnel, and advertising agents all are paid. I’m sure I’m missing a few other key personal due to my minimal exposure to the profession.

Let’s not forget distribution. Think gas prices. Think trucks and drivers and maintenance. Think about space required to first stage and then load the journals onto the trucks. Left over papers that get returned? Who handles them and where do they go? Unpurchased newspapers go on the minus side of the balance sheet, further adding to the cost to publish.

Just how fast are newspapers disappearing?

An article in The Oregonian referred to a report issued by the State of Local News that 360 newspapers had closed since 2019. Another report from the Medill School of Journalism cited that 2,500 newspapers have closed since 2004.

The Oregonian continues to publish a printed newspaper despite increased costs in doing so. OregonLive, their online edition, continues to grow subscriptions. John Maher, publisher and president of Oregonian Media Group often says that “we will publish in print as long as the newspaper is profitable”.

Large newspapers are not immune to closures

“Since the beginning of 2009, the United States has seen a number of major metropolitan dailies shuttered or drastically pruned after no buyers emerged, including the Rocky Mountain News, closed in February, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, reduced to a bare-bones Internet operation. San Francisco Chronicle narrowly averted closure when employees made steep concessions. In Detroit, both newspapers, Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News, slashed home delivery to three days a week, while prodding readers to visit the newspapers’ Internet sites on other days. In Tucson, Arizona, the state’s oldest newspaper, the Tucson Citizen, said it would cease publishing on March 21, 2009, when parent Gannett Company failed to find a buyer.”(2)

Smaller newspapers closings create news deserts

“Smaller Since 2004, there have been about 1,800 newspapers that have been shut down, most of them (1,700) were weeklies. Since 2004 on average 100 newspapers have been closing each year. There are now 7,000+ newspapers still publishing, a large majority (over 80%) being weeklies that are located primarily in small and rural areas with a circulation under 15,000.” (3)

The selling off of news

“Large newspaper chains who have bought out other newspapers have seen their stocks plummet.  The McClatchy Company, the nation’s third-largest newspaper company, was the only bidder on the Knight Ridder chain of newspapers in 2005. Since its $6.5 billion Knight Ridder purchase, McClatchy’s stock has lost more than 98% of its value. McClatchy subsequently announced large layoffs and executive pay cuts, as its shares fell into penny stock territory. (Although McClatchy faced delisting from the New York Stock Exchange for having a share price below $1, in September 2009, it was able to overcome this threat.

Others have not been so lucky. In 2008 and 2009, three other U.S. newspaper chains have seen their shares delisted by the New York Stock Exchange.) A 2015 report from the Brookings Institution shows that the number of newspapers per hundred million population fell from 1,200 (in 1945) to 400 in 2014. Over that same period, circulation per capita declined from 35 percent in the mid-1940s to under 15 percent. The number of newspaper journalists has decreased from 43,000 in 1978 to 33,000 in 2015.” (2)

Advertisers have many more options today

“The Internet is eroding the advertising income of newspapers, as — unlike broadcast media — it proves a convenient vehicle for classified advertising, particularly in categories such as jobs, vehicles, and real estate. Free services like Craigslist have decimated the classified advertising departments of newspapers, some of which depended on classifieds for 70% of their ad revenue. Research has shown that Craigslist cost the newspaper industry $5.4 billion from 2000 to 2007, and that changes on the classified side of newspaper business led to an increase in subscription prices, a decrease in display advertising rates, and impacted the online strategy of some newspapers.” (2)

Let’s talk REALLY local news – us!

By the way, thank you for reading this far into this article. You are an anomaly. You want the story, not just the headline. We at The Herald are constantly bombarded with the question: “Why don’t you print the news?” and “I miss a good, old-fashioned newspaper that I can hold”.

Well, we would, more than you know, like to print that “good old-fashioned newspaper”. The truth of the matter is that even publishing online is expensive these days. Nobody is making a dime here. We’re all volunteers trying to make a difference. How do we even pay for this online news site? Between rent, utilities, an office manager, web manager, an advertising agent (who, by the way, continually cuts her rates to help keep us afloat), and other miscellaneous costs, we’re not even breaking even yet, but we’re trying.

How do we, and you, help keep local journalism alive? You can help us get local news out by donating. Your community will thank you later. Please feel free to address your questions or comments to us here at The Herald. If you agree or disagree, we’d like to hear from you. You may reach me directly at [email protected].

 

(1) CBS News, Money Watch,  Losing local newspapers leaves many communities in the dark, Mar 11,2019

(2) Source: Wikipedia

(3) Forbes, Newspapers Have Been Struggling And Then Came The Pandemic, Aug 20,2021

 

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