Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share
15 July 2019
Print newspapers dying produces a new media landscape
Little says more about the state of today’s print newspapers than a few reports trickling in late last week. First, many newspaper journalists are now working a second job to make ends meet. Some are part-time bartenders. Others are baristas.
Even more disturbing was the Columbia Journalism Review feature on Jon Kelvey, a reporter at the Carroll County Times in Maryland. He’s so broke working as a journalist that he depends on the local food bank to feed his family.
Then there’s news that Starbucks is ending the sale of print newspapers at its shops. No more New York Times. No more Wall Street Journal. And no more USA Today when getting your coffee.
Of course, we all know print newspapers are dying. That’s been going on for years. More than 1,800 newspapers have folded over the last 15 years, and current staffs are thin. It’s just the way of the new world.
But we’re also seeing new trends emerge. For one thing, most people read their news online. While print weekday circulation drops 12% across the country, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal report their digital readership grows 20% in 2018.
So, are people still reading newspapers, just not print newspapers?
Fewer print newspapers leading to lesser journalism, stronger national presence
To some extent, yes. But there is also a shift to national newspapers rather than your local ones. It’s The New York Times and The Washington Post who are benefiting. Not the Carroll County Times or whatever print newspapers are near you.
“The lack of print newspapers means things are changing, and not always for the good. Local papers need to give readers a reason to digitally subscribe, something many struggle with.”
What does this mean in the long run? For one, journalism suffers when some salaries aren’t enough to feed your family. That means better prospective journalists will take to other fields. (It’s also why you see so many media with young staffs. They’re cheaper to pay.)
Also, all news is local, as the old saying goes. Meaning, much of the most important stories gained traction locally before becoming a national story. (It’s not quite the same thing, but think of the Miami Herald’s story on Jeffrey Epstein. His arrest wouldn’t have happened without a local newspaper investigating.)
The lack of print newspapers means things are changing, and not always for the good. Local papers need to give readers a reason to digitally subscribe, something many struggle with. (Or, give the paper away for free.)
Otherwise, if you want to be journalist, you’d better keep your day (night) job.
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