Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Extra! Extra!

When I moved to Oregon, the print media was very much alive.  The Oregonian had won Pulitzers; the newspaper from the state capital, Salem, was vibrant; and the Register Guard was still publishing the broadsheet papers that I find only in India.

And then shit happened.

First the newspapers trimmed down their breadth.  Literally, the paper shrank in size.  The number of sheets reduced.  Newspapers were on a diet and they were slimming down fast.  The Oregonian even stopped printing the news on a daily basis, and it became more of an online presence.  The Statesman Journal stopped being a local newspaper after it became a part of the USA Today group.

The Register Guard was the lone one standing, and proud.  The paper celebrated its 150 years of being a family-owned paper that thought big.

And then shit happened.
GateHouse officially takes ownership on March 1 of the company’s media properties, which include the daily newspaper, its companion digital products, the weekly Emerald Valley Shopper newspaper and a commercial printing operation.
GateHouse is part of publicly traded New Media Investment Group. ...
The company, based in Fairport in upstate New York, has publications in 36 states.
What do the new owners say is their approach?
Our strategy is to acquire and operate traditional local media businesses and transform them from print-centric operations to dynamic multi-media operations, through our existing online advertising and digital marketing businesses.
Meanwhile, the NY Times CEO says that its print products might be around for another ten years.  And then ...?

What will happen to all the local reporting?  Who will cover what the local elected officials and corporations are up to?

There are a lot more people worried about this and are doing something. Like Report for America:
a new journalism training corps blending the traditional job-education organization with a model for sustainable reporting. The emphasis is on hiring a diverse group of journalists to cover underrepresented regions of the United States.
Similar to Teach for America. But more than that.
Report for America's pilot program, which launched last month, placed three early-career reporters in Appalachian newsrooms, at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, the Lexington World-Herald, and the Charleston Gazette-Mail. The program includes mentorship and training programs, and just like their cohorts in urban newsrooms, the journalists are expected to file stories regularly and will receive a salary equivalent to other entry-level reporters.
Report for America's first class consists of three reporters familiar with Appalachia: Caity Coyne, a recent graduate of West Virginia University reporting for the Charleston Gazette-Mail; Molly Born, a West Virginia native reporting for West Virginia Public Broadcasting; and Will Wright, a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky reporting for the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Back when I was a kid in India, I loved how my favorite newspaper covered the news from around the world.  I was mighty proud of that, until a visitor burst that bubble.  One of those in the way, way, way extended family, the kind of connections that only my father can track right in his head, this visitor said that India's problem was that news organizations did not look at their own backyards, but were covering President Carter more.  Until that day, I had never thought about the importance of local news.  I was even mighty condescending towards the local news.  But, my opinion changed.

When I came to the US, I was in newspaper heaven.  In the university library, I read the NY Times and the WSJ, and subscribed to the LA  Times.  After graduating and getting into the real world, when I no longer had the university library to supply drugs to this news junkie, there was a time that I subscribed to the NY Times, the WSJ, the LA Times, and the Bakersfield Californian.  I lugged a lot a newspaper to the recycling bins ;)

Locally, the countdown to that d-day has begun.  We will soon find out how local our local newspaper will be.


Ramesh said...

The Register Guard is 150 years old ? Wow. I tip my proverbial hat - that is magnificent history there. Although I didn't know that human beings have lived in Oregon for 150 years now :):):)

While the print medium may be dying, I think its more an issue of the medium than he message. Actual reporting (the good, the bad and the ugly) is robust and thriving. Its got a new set of issues - rumour and innuendo as news, lack of rigour in reporting, sensationalism, noise, etc etc but its not dying. Society will learn to deal with the new set of problems.

I cannot believe that you felt in newspaper heaven when you went to the US ? Really ? Once more, really ?

Sriram Khé said...

Local journalism is dying rapidly here in the US. (India never had local journalism, and it still does not. Who really covers the major stories in, say, Trichy or Salem?) It is not as if digital journalism will replace print journalism either, when it comes to local reporting.

The NY Times has shown that digital journalism can generate huge revenues--their subscriber base (including me) has gone up a lot. But, the NY Times won't cover Eugene's affairs.