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FOR THE WEEK OF JAN. 26, 2009

Pain in print: Major newspapers fight for survival

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Electronic journalism innovations show an industry redefining itself to stay vital. Identify an online-only feature of this paper's website and tell how it's useful. What type of multimedia storytelling do you like best?
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Discuss what readers gain from a daily paper, in print or online, that's difficult or costlier to get anywhere else.
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What would a community lose with no local newspaper? How many things can you list?

When newspapers cover job reductions, other cutbacks and business shutdowns these days, the gloomy news increasingly is about their own industry. Some journalists report on their employer's struggle to survive, as Seattle readers are seeing right now.
From coast to coast, a U.S. industry born in the 18th century is fighting to adapt profitably in the 21st. Sharply declining ad revenues, high debt, changes in culture and technology, and the nation's deep economic slump have hit newspapers hard.

The list of endangered American dailies has grown already in 2009, though the year is barely a month old. The Minneapolis Star Tribune filed for bankruptcy protection while it tries to reorganize, a step also taken last month by Tribune Co., which owns The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The (Baltimore) Sun, The Hartford Courant and other dailies. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is up for purchase and faces closure or an online-only future if not sold soon. A buyer also is sought for The Rocky Mountain News in Denver, putting it in similar jeopardy.
The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News will cut home delivery to three days a week in March, though abbreviated editions will be available at stores and coin boxes each day. Gannett Co., the largest U.S. newspaper publisher, is imposing one-week, unpaid furloughs for most employees at more than 90 dailies, including USA Today.

On a brighter note, many papers are expanding their web presence, interacting more with readers and presenting multimedia journalism with video, slides, customizable maps and databases. The Nielsen Media Research firm says U.S. newspaper web sites attract more than 68 million unique visitors each month -- which is 41 percent of all Internet users. That encouraging news suggests major papers with solid online resources could attract enough advertising revenue to continue, though not necessarily with a full print presence.

Editor says: "Nationally and locally, we've been slow to respond to changes in the market, in readers' needs and in technology. . . . We haven't done a good job of marketing ourselves, of making sure people understand that what we do actually is valuable." - David McCumber, managing editor of Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Blogger says: ." I believe that more than half of the 1,440 or so daily U.S. newspapers will disappear in the next seven to 10 years. . . . And we'll be less informed about issues in our local communities and on the national stage than we are today." - J.D. Lasica, former Sacramento Bee editor who's now president of the Social Media Group

Web resource: www.newspaperdeathwatch.com is not as ghoulish as the name sounds. Its home page describes the focus this way: "Chronicling the Decline of Newspapers and the Rebirth of Journalism."

Front Page Talking Points is written by Felix Grabowski and Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2016
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