Vail Daily Editor and Publisher Don Rogers: Ask Mark Twain about this
Vail, CO, Colorado
New Orleans soon will be the largest city in America without a daily newspaper.
The Times-Picayune, at 175 years old, is scaling back to three editions. The paper delivered every day through Katrina, but was clipped by recession and the Digital Age.
Some of my colleagues are, well, … is panicked too strong a word for their concern about the big dinosaurs keeling over?
The owner of the Times-Picayune, Advance Publications, did something similar with its paper in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 2009, and also is converting several metropolitan dailies in Alabama to three-day papers.
My company has one seven-day paper that cut back to five editions before adding one back.
In the darkest days of the recession, we looked at whether it made sense to drop the Vail Daily’s leanest editions. It didn’t. Each day remained profitable even in the toughest times, although we had to tighten up like everyone else as the economy tumbled.
The largely untold story during the longest deathwatch in history (newspapering through the advents of radio, television, cable, the Internet, the Web, cell phones, tablets …) is that little community papers like ours have weathered the fragmentation of media and the Great Recession better than any.
TV, radio and the horde of online news sources are closer to the tale of the Times-Picayune than the Vail Daily or her sisters. They’re just better at not talking about news media navel-gazing than we are. We report, with maybe too much candor, while they try to whistle past the graveyard.
Meantime, readership for my baby actually is up. Print in this valley, for whatever reason, remains overwhelmingly king. Then add the growing audience through our website and digital means of picking us up.
I’d say the colleagues closer to panic identify themselves more as newspaper people than, say, journalists.
Death for newspapers – or more precisely, a certain class of larger, subscription-based newspapers -means transformation for journalists.
The public’s demand for journalism has never been higher. Journalists themselves might never have been appreciated less by their employers. That’s observation, not a complaint, and understandable in these times.
Still, I see an instability here that can’t last. And I have this irrational notion that competition for our services eventually will turn out well for the journalists.
The heart of journalism, after all, is not the means by which you consume it. What an irony, though, that the most likely way will remain reading your humble hometown paper.
Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2920.
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