by J Scott Christianson, Columbia Daily Tribune Columnist
A couple of weeks ago, one of Denver’s two daily newspapers, the Rocky Mountain News, folded after nearly 150 years of continuous operation. It was done in by a convergence of several forces: the Internet, media consolidation and the current recession.
At the Rocky Mountain News, classified advertisers were largely lured away to free services like Craigslist, Ebay and Monster.com. Subscribers logged in to MSN and other news sites instead of waiting for the familiar “plop” of the afternoon paper on the front porch. And many of the display advertisers scurried away to Google, Facebook and other online advertisers who could guarantee clicks for their dollars.
Unfortunately, the Rocky Mountain News is probably just the first major paper that will fold this year. Already Hearst Corp. is talking about shutting down the San Francisco Chronicle and is limiting the online content at all of its papers in an effort to force readers to either pay for online access or purchase a paper. The Wall Street Journal has cut back its newsroom staff, and Philadelphia Newspapers LLC — which owns both The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News — just declared bankruptcy. The list of failing and faltering papers gets longer every day.
A contributing factor to the demise of these papers has been the consolidation of print media into large media corporations. These companies are driven by their stock prices and simply take too much profit out of the business, leaving little local infrastructure or reserves for weathering economic storms like our current unpleasantness.
I am not lamenting the death of the physical newspaper — a newspaper doesn’t have to be actually printed on paper to be good. In fact, although I get my Tribune delivered every night, by the time it arrives I have usually read at least part of it online, sometimes via my cell phone.
But what worries me is the death of the newsroom. Consider the fact that most of the investigative reports that are presented on TV and on Internet sites actually originate in newspaper newsrooms. This is not by coincidence. Newspapers have long provided the resources needed for investigative reporters to do their work, often on stories that, ironically, make the paper less popular with advertisers.
Several folks view the demise of the newspaper industry and the concomitant rise of online…