Saturday, February 28, 2009

It's Mourning in America

A newspaper died this week. Will anyone notice? Will anybody care?

The Rocky Mountain News shut down Friday, about a month-and-a-half away from its 150th anniversary. It must have been wrenching for the staff. Newspaper people dedicate a lot of time and energy to their jobs. This is a great letdown.

Scripps owned the paper, and I predicted on this blog oh so many posts ago that the company would spike the entire paper, since it had ample precedent.

Scripps earlier closed the paper in its own home town of Cincinnati. What newspaper company does that? One that doesn't put a whole lot of stake in newspapers anymore. Scripps is now into HGTV, which it owns, than into breaking news.

So we can't say we didn't see this one coming. It was in the making for some time, considering the Rocky was in a joint operating agreement before it closed. The JOA often is a prelude to death.

We have another chronicle of a death foretold: It appears the SF Chronicle also is gasping for air, and may close any day now. It's shocking to see the newspaper industry down on its knees like this. The industry was so utterly unprepared for technological changes in news gathering and delivery. We are a long way from Kansas now--and boy do we know it.

This week the American Society of Newspaper Editors canceled its annual conference due to little interest. I'd say this is a good move. It would be hard to justify a junket to (fill in the blank) while editors everywhere are mercilessly axing staff and newspaper content and pages. Why that would have been the newspaper equivalent of auto industry honchos flying to Washington on private jets to beg Congress for money. Only in this case, editors would be wringing their bloody hands over cocktails.

Speaking of which, begging for money--either directly to Congress or in the form of sponsored stories or investigative series-- is what some newspaper companies are weighing.

Bad idea.

I realize these are desperate times, but newspapers are supposed to be free of any outside influence. If newspapers want to have freedom of the press, they have to take it on the chin and find a new business model, one that doesn't depend on sponsorship or government loans of any kind.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Time help to educate people as to why newspapers matter. Go to and consider signing the petition and tell others about it too.
Also keep up with LA journalist TJ Sullivan's blog at