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Posts tagged as “newspapers”

First take/Oregonian

It's been a couple of years since we dropped our Oregonian subscription, the combination of price increase and diminished product having become too great a disincentive to continue. We'd start again tomorrow if we could get the paper we had back, say, even five years ago. But that ship seems to have sailed.

And the Oregonian marketing department seems to know it; it's been well over a year since we've heard from them, by phone or mail or anything else, soliciting back our business. Usually, if you're looking for new customers, old customers are a good place to look.

We do look at the paper much of the time - a neighbor shares many copies of it after finishing with it - and the content seems ever thinner. And then there was the report a few days ago about the latest round of buyouts, which eliminated nearly all of the last few publicly-visible and well-regarded (in these quarters anyway) names, like columnist Steve Duin and political reporter Jeff Mapes.

The paper will soldier on. But it will get weaker in all regards. And it's giving people ever fewer reasons to come back, or to hang in there. A sad thing. - rs

Even newer media

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Last week writer Chris Carlson and I were touring around north Idaho, and when we pulled in at Moscow decided to stop in at the local paper.

We pulled up to the downtown building that for half a century and more had housed the Daily News (or, as I knew it in my Moscow years, the Idahonian). I was a little startled to find it now occupied by an economic development company, but the receptionist there helpfully pointed me to the newspaper’s new digs.

Those were located in a suite of offices on the second floor of the Moscow federal building. Chris and I inquired about the unusual situation of a newspaper whose landlord was the federal government, but that turned out not to be the case either. The federal building, which still includes the post office and federal courts, had earlier been sold to a foundation of the local hospital. Which presumably could kick them all out if it developed expansion plans in the area, as many hospitals in recent years have been known to do.

The newspaper, which had off-loaded its press years before and was using only a small part of the space in its old building, understandably wanted more cost-effective offices, and conditions were right at the federal building. But it seems a comedown to see a newspaper in an office building suite, like just another firm of accountants or lawyers.

This week also brought news of the anticipated sale of the Post Company in Idaho Falls, which operates that city’s daily newspaper, the Post Register, and three eastern Idaho weeklies. The sale is said to be final at the beginning of next month. The sale leaves the Lewiston and Moscow papers, jointly owned at Lewiston, and the Hagadone papers based in Coeur d’Alene, as the lone locally-owned papers in the state.

The surprise buyer at Idaho Falls is Adams Publishing Group, an organization completely new to the Northwest. The most common expectation, probably, was that the Post Register would go to one of the big national chains like Gannett or McClatchy, but Adams is a smaller presence in the newspaper world. The Post Register may be the largest newspaper in its organization, which has 46 newspapers but mostly very small dailies, weeklies and specialty publications, and all of them located in the northeast, from Minnesota to Maryland. It seems a surprising connection.

The Post Register is among the diminishing numbers of papers that still have their own printing presses, and that may have been attractive to Adams, which does a substantial amount of commercial printing. Still, the Post Register-Adams linkup does seem a little unusual, partly because the Idaho paper is so far outside the company’s geographic base .

Word from the Post Register is that little is expected to change, at least any time soon, at Idaho Falls: The paper should continue on generally as it has been. But once newspapers move from local ownership to the national or international marketplace, unpredictable things can happen. Over the years, for example, the Boise Idaho Statesman went from local ownership to Federated Newspapers, to Gannett, to Knight-Ridder and now to McClatchy. In large corporations, especially the largest, newspapers can be swapped around like trading cards.

Adams may be small enough that won’t happen. But keep watch on this: See how this distant Idaho property is integrated into the moderate-sized business from the east, whether by more acquisitions out west or in some other way.

It’s a new world for newspapers, and it just keeps getting newer.

The cartoonist population

Hadn't fully appreciated this aspect on the newspaper troubles. From the Editor & Publisher web site:

David Horsey, who won Pulitzers for cartooning in 1999 and again in 2003, lost his job when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ceased print publication. Though he stayed on as the newspaper went online-only, he now draws for all Hearst papers, but not as a local cartoonist. Following the layoff of Eric Devericks at The Seattle Times last December, there is no major-metro local editorial cartoonist in Seattle.

There is still Jack Ohman at the Oregonian.

The paper watch

Now the Post-Intelligencer, the print version anyway, is gone, and the drumbeat goes on. Cuts at Boise, Olympia, Bellingham, elsewhere. (The norm now seems to be that the average newspaper in the region, probably in the country, employs about a third fewer people than it did a couple of years ago.)

Who's keeping track?

If you're looking for mainstream industry information, the place to watch is Editor & Publisher, the website of the long-running industry magazine. Beyond that, and beyond the official corporate sites, there's some interesting reading to be found.

Jim Hopkins' excellent Gannett Blog has attracted a good deal of attention, and it has some relevance to Northwest newspaper watchers - but less than it once did, because Gannett has only one daily left in the region (the Salem Statesman-Journal). The chains more dominant in the region's newspapering aren't be tracked so closely.

There is also, happily, the McClatchy Watch, about the newspaper company that now owns the dailies at Tacoma, Boise, Bellingham, Olympia and the Tri-Cities, is deeply in debt, and it cutting back all over.

Two other companies own a bunch of dailies in the region. Both Pioneer Newspapers (Klamath Falls, Nampa, Pocatello, Mount Vernon, Ellensburg) and Lee Enterprises (Twin Falls, Albany, Corvallis, Longview) collectively have substantial audiences in the region, and own a bunch of weeklies in addition to the dailies, but aren't really well-known as corporate entities. There doesn't seem to be a close external observer of Pioneer, which as a family business can and does manage itself quietly. There is a blog called Lee Watch, but it mainly posts employee-related matters.

Oregonians can check Oregon Media Insiders, which leans a bit toward the broadcast side but often has useful material on the area's newspapers too (like a recent post on more cutbacks at the Vancouver Columbian).

And, of course, right here . . .

One day at a time

How sad is this headline from KIRO-TV on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "Staff at the newspaper have been told that Wednesday's paper won't be the last one."

We're now past 60 days from the point on January 9 when Hearst, owner of the P-I, said it would keep the paper printing for 60 more days pending either a sale of the paper (which never looked likely) or conversion to online-only.

There will be a Wednesday print edition. Will Thursday print? Hearst isn't saying. So it's a day to day matter now.

So, apparently, is the digital conversion. The new Publicola site, which seems to have the best reportage on the situation, is suggesting that Hearst wants to try the digital approach and has been approaching 20 or so staffers to gauge interest. However, the pay and benefits package apparently has been mediocre, and evidently few of the paper's people have agreed to sign on. And that drama goes on.

After the next day or two, that drama may in fact be what keeps the P-I in print, for however much longer that may be.

Following up: Lincoln County Chatter

Last August we blogged about a newspaper aftermath in a small town, on the border of ever being able to support a small weekly. Shoshone, Idaho, population around 1,300 in a county not terribly larger, long was home to the Lincoln County Journal. Along with a bunch of other weeklies in the area, it was shut down last year by its owner, Lee Enterprises.

The editor, Marsha Hiatt, may have lost the paycheck but she refused to quit. She started a news blog, the Lincoln County Chatter, and got it off to a promising start last summer.

And now? A few days ago, she sent a mail saying "the blog is still going strong - almost 5,000 hits a month. I have branched out and now have a photo blog and government blog as well. In November I was also elected as Commissioner in my county - the only Democrat elected in the Magic Valley region of Southern Idaho. Just thought I'd let you know - we're still kickin' over here in Idaho."

Today, responding to a query back, she adds:

. . . the blog followers are - for the most part - hugely supportive. This effort is successful because of them and the information they send into the blog. We also have readers all over the country and in many other countries - mostly people who grew up in this area or have family here. (This is astonding to me because our county is less than 5,000 in population). It really has turned into a very fulfilling and full-time hobby. On a political note, I have learned a great deal about what's important in this community and how people view the world. Though I may not always like, or agree with, what they send me I still think it's important to know where their heads are.
Again, thanks. I'm truly proud of what this has turned into.

There may be hope yet beyond newspapers.

Shrinkage

A correspondent (who asked to remain anonymous) pulled together some comparisons of daily newspaper page size, on occasion of the Boise Idaho Statesman's switch today to publication on the press of the Nampa Idaho Press-Tribune - which is cutting the page size.

But it has been cut before, and it has been a process. A big process it has been, too. In 1986, space on a page of the broadsheet Statesman covered 323.1 square inches. As of today, a page is 233.7 square inches.

And we should note here that the Statesman is far from alone in the trimming; few if any daily newspapers publish today in the dimensions they did 20 years ago. (more…)

Your ideas, anyway

You'll recall that when the Hearst Corporation owners of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said about a month ago that they will be ending their publication of the P-I print edition (which end date is about a month from now), there was some indication of maybe continuing in some way as an electronic publication.

That possibility is still sort of out there, but it seems to be fading. A blogger at the Stranger's Slog, bringing some of this up to date, throws in a fascinating quote from an e-mail from a P-I staffer:

Can I also go off on a tangent and say how bizarre it is for Hearst to ask us for our groundbreaking, lean, out of the box ideas for a profitable online venture? (1) If they were going to ask, shouldn't they have asked before they let us know via KING 5 that we were probably all about to be laid off? (2) Do they seriously not have a plan already in place? That seems like terrible business planning, (3) Why are they asking us these questions instead of paying someone who might actually know something about how to make money on the Internet? Aren't reporters notoriously bad when it comes to issues like this, because we have always prided ourselves on having nothing to do with how ads are sold? But, (4) Didn't the two reporters who did know something about how to make money on the Internet, John Cook and Todd Bishop, come to them with a groundbreaking, lean, out of the box idea not so long ago and get rejected?

Paperless Mondays at Idaho Falls

Beginning in March, the Post Register daily newspaper will not publish any more on Mondays. The reason is cost-saving: Evidently, to judge from Publisher Roger Plothow's piece today on the change (behind a pay wall), it was that or lay off employees. And since the paper will be continuing to update its website on Mondays, that seems the rational choice.

He points out that the Post-Register was a six-day paper - no Saturday publication - until 1996. Might be interesting to know (Plothow doesn't say) why the ax fell on the Monday, rather than the Saturday, edition. At a guess: The ad picture penciled out better than way.

Three to two

Among the many newspaper cutbacks and diminishments we've been seeing, here's one: The tri-weekly (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) McMinnville News-Register next month will become a bi-weekly (Wednesday, Saturday). And its page size will shrink somewhat, and the individual copy box price is expected to rise.

This may not be as sweeping as it sounds in impact on the readers. The Wednesday edition will be a beefed-up weekday edition, and the newshole (space for news stories) evidently won't be a lot less from where it has been.

But, this is a family-owned newspaper, owned by one of those families still genuinely dedicated to community service. To see this is to see the raw economy getting very raw.