Monday, February 25, 2008

My Town Mondays


Michigan has lost more jobs than any other state and the impact of that reverberates around the state, especially in Detroit. One of our greatest losses is a first-rate newspaper. The Detroit Free Press has a venerable tradition but at the moment, it is sliding into an equal footing with newspapers from very small cities that are forced to import news reports and, in this case, reviews of TV, movies and books. The newspaper has lost all of this coverage over the last year. This means that our reviews are plucked willy-nilly from the newspapers still able to finance such pages and it means we lack a consistent voice in these affairs. (We have a second paper, the Detroit News, but as I have never subscribed I can’t speak to its quality).

I am watching the same thing happen to the Baltimore Sun on The Wire, of course. The ultimate outcome may be a few national papers that have local inserts. England, for instance, goes with national papers but that is a much smaller country. Oh, for the days when my kids delivered papers (Josh delivered, Megan collected) and every front step had a paper sitting there. Now it’s a rarer thing.

Would you forgo a local paper if a NYT or Washington Post was delivered to your doorstep with an insert that gave local news?

Or is your local paper still a viable publication?

23 comments:

socalledauthor said...

Who reads the paper anymore? Shoot-- I get the Freep, but I read the county paper online (cheaper ;-P). I think the decline of papers is more internet than economy. Them young'uns get their news through their cell phone, the internet, etc.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I bet the newspapers rue the day they decided to allow people to read the news free online.

socalledauthor said...

I think they have to roll with the changes, though. Papers aren't the same animal they once were-- notice now how much larger the text is, and how many pix there are, how the layout it set up-- how all this is different from the olden papers of 100 years ago. The Newspaper has adapted before.

My local-yokel paper has quite a few ads online-- and they're drawing folks into see those ads with this "Story Chat" feature and with online galleries taht the community can submit pix to, etc. Making an online community... and providing audience to sell ad space to. I don't think they'll rue it so long as they have enough advertisers on line-- and enough folks still buying the seven-page hard copy.

They've been expanding their use of the online space-- including breaking news updates. I think the newspapers have to see that they need to change with a changing world.

eviljwinter said...

"Or is your local paper still a viable publication?"

*Snort!* You can tell the death of the Post has already impacted the Enquirer in Cincinnati. Even its web site is next to useless.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I wonder if the papers withdrew free online editions, if they'd pick up any new subscribers or it's way too late for that maneouver.

Chuck said...

We canceled our Free Press subscription about a year ago because we weren't reading it. However, we were and contimue to read the New York Times, the Washington Post and USA Today as well as other papers on line. At one point, we were paying around $7.00 per month to read the NYT. But in Decembeer or so, they went free.

I read the Detroit News and the Free Press on line to keep up with the Kawame scandal and local sports.

All in all, I like being able to read articles and opinions from many, many papers on line and I don't miss the hard copy.

pattinase (abbott) said...

But at some point, Chuck, why will these publications continue to offer us free online service? If most of them go out of business, then what? It's no-win situation. You can pretty much trace the decline in these publications to their availability on the Internet. And I still like holding a newspaper in my hands. I like the slap on the doorstep every morning.

Karen Olson said...

The biggest decline in newspapers is due to the loss of classified advertising, which people can now do for free on craigslist. Because of that loss of revenue, newspapers are cutting back, both on staff and in the news hole. Newspapers can't yet figure out how to make money through the Internet and they'll flounder until they can.

As for the depiction in The Wire: it's pretty on the mark, but on the mark as of a couple of years ago. Those reporters now would be carrying video cameras and doing reports on local TV and blogging, all without a pay increase. And those old copy editors on the show: they would've been long gone, taking the first buyouts a few years back.

Signed: former print journalist.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks for an insider (or former insider's)analysis. I know this betrays my shallow roots, but I can get good news coverage from the NYT. What I really miss is coverage of the arts. And the hodgepodge they use now reflects no POV. I like a consistency of voice. Also the Freep has never really covered from the bitter strike of a decade ago. Sad.

Travis Erwin said...

The local paper here in Amarillo never has been good for anything but following local high school sports and lining the bird cage.

John McFetridge said...

Ah, newspaper culture. When I was a kid I delivered the Montreal Gazette before I left for school, and after my route I usually had time to read it all - at first only the sports section, but later all of it. Then, I'd read the Str when it got delivered in the late afternoon.

It really gave me the edge in early editions of Trivial Pursuit.

Now I live in Toronto where we have the tabloid The Sun which is terrible (even the sports section, no matter what people say) and the broadsheet Toronto Star is... okay, though I think most Americans would find it so left wing they'd be shocked. I'm pretty left-wing and I'm sometimes shocked. I find the paper often avoids difficult issues and is too much a cheerleader for wht I'd call the Chamber of Commerce view of the city.

And we have two national papers that are always accused of being too Toronto-centric, so I think they try so hard not be that they don't cover Toronto enough.

I miss real local coverge. Arts, sports, politics - all of it. I miss more than one side of an issue, especially local ones. I miss the way newspapers used to follow stories for more than fifteen minutes.

Oh yeah, we also have two free "arts weeklies" that are mostly ads for hookers.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Ha! Amarillo. So what do you do for news. Houston Chronicle? Dallas paper.
The Freep is pretty liberal--that's the one good thing still going for it. I loved living in England and reading The Guardian.
We have a local weekly too. Good for arty stuff sometimes but a little too young.

John McFetridge said...

"A little too young." You're so generous ;)

Many book-related articles I read online do seem to come from the Guardian...

pattinase (abbott) said...

But why shouldn't the young command the newsways? My gen. squandered our chance to change the world by settling for the status quo.

Todd Mason said...

Well, everyone changes the world, but not necessarily that much and it doesn't necessarily Stay changed.

In Phildelphia and environs, THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER faces all the typical newspaper problems of a chain daily and is smack in the middle of the NY TIMES (pompous, if relatively full, not least of itself) and the WASHINGTON POST (slighter, somewhat less institutionally stiff and with a vastly better Books weekly, if also the Voice of the Establishment...albeit with more comic strips than any? other US paper...a page more than the INQUIRER, for example).

Speaking of contraction, the episode of THE WIRE that officially dropped last night also had a passing reference to Mark Steiner, who's since (the production) been fired as the institutional interviewer at Balto's Newier NPR outlet WYPR, which he helped re-establish when Johns Hopkins decided to get out of the radio business early in the decade.

There's something to be saide for a lot fewer dead trees disposed of daily, but I'll miss papers. Pity we haven't had a thoroughly good one for a Long time. HERALD TRIBUNE, anyone?

Todd Mason

pattinase (abbott) said...

Growing up in Philly, we read the PHILADELPHIA BULLETIN, the more liberal paper if I remember correctly. Bet you don't remember that one, Todd.

TM said...

The old BULLETIN was long since folded by the time I moved here in 1996...there's a new BULLETIN, a rightwing paper that isn't making much commercial headway, but might not need to, either...I suspect it's meant to Make a Point, a la THE WASHINGTON TIMES...but it might've also already folded, since I haven't seen one in weeks, at least. Currently, the city has two other dailies, including the local iteration of METRO, which has about as much content but fewer ads and comics than the tottering DAILY NEWS. I don't think, but might be wrong, that any of the African-American papers are dailies. CF writer Duane S. has just stepped down from editorship of one of the two longterm YouthQuake weeklies, the PHILADELPHIA CITY PAPER, the other being the WEEKLY, slightly older if we count it's earlier form as the WELCOMAT.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Hi Patti,

Here's an interesting aside to this very interesting thread. For a few years the NYTimes had a system by which most of the paper was free on-line but you had to pay a few dollars for the special edition which had their most respected and sought after columnists etc. A while back the Times dropped the fee, because they said that they were making so much money from advertizing and not a lot from the fee, so it wasn't worth keeping it around.

Terrie

Travis Erwin said...

Liberal in Texas?

Only in Austin and maybe a few areas of Houston and Dallas but up in my neck of the woods liberal is almsot a bad word.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Amarillo seems as exotic as the Fiji Islands to me. My only experience with Texas is Austin and they want to "keep it strange," right?

alex keto said...

As a previous commentator noted, Craigslist knocked newspaper finances all to hell. Up until then, newspapers had a monopoly and owning one was a license to print money.

Although a lot of people say I can get my news for free from the internet or the cell phone, you have to pause and wonder where does the website get the news and where does the cell phone get the news.

At the moment, they are getting it from newspapers and the AP. That will change as more newspapers go belly up.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am going to spend the week finding something positive to say about Detroit. I think I have an idea.

Travis Erwin said...

Yes, Austin doesn't simply march to the beat of a different drummer, they find a whole different instrument to propel their movements. But I really like visiting the city.

And different areas of Texas all have vastly diverse vibes if you visit.

I saw that Forbes magazine ranked Detroit as the miserablest city in the U.S. Flint, MI was third but Stockton , CA was second.