By paulgillin | March 12, 2008 - 8:02 am - Posted in Fake News, Paywalls

Staff Reductions Taking Their Toll

The steady stream of newspaper staff and budget cuts is beginning to be felt on the street.

Politico reports on the shrinking ranks of regional reporters covering Capitol Hill – the local Regional Reporters Association’s membership has dropped from 200 to 84 in a decade – and suggests that a lot of politician shenanigans may be going uncovered thanks to the dearth of watchdogs looking out for local interests. However, the story notes that specialty newsletters and publications like Congressional Quarterly have grown their staffs and that the total size of the congressional press pool has stayed about the same as a result.

Ken Doctor notes the broad trend toward cuts in newspaper business coverage and speculates about how newspapers can maintain a foothold in this area, which is often critical for ad sales. He sees national and international organizations like Dow Jones and Reuters increasingly syndicating their coverage to smaller papers in almost pre-packaged form.

E&P Totes Up the Numbers, and They Aren’t Good

Top U.S. newspapers have lost about 1.4 million copies in daily circulation, says Editor & Publisher. Declines of 20% or more have occurred at the LA Times, SF Chronicle and Boston Globe. Only two papers covered in the report – USA Today and the New York Post – managed to increase circulation. Factors include competition from other print and online media, publisher iatives to cut discounted or free copies and the creation of a national do-not-call list.

Despair and hope

Veteran journalist-turned-academic Tim McGuire writes a remarkably somber confession on his Arizona State University blog titled “I suddenly feel a lot worse about the future of newspapers.” The catalyst was comments by Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn. Hoffman apparently said that newspapers’ model of mixing profits with civic responsibility is fatally flawed. The two objectives just don’t mesh. This and other comments left McGuire, 58, feeling like he and others of his generation just don’t get the Internet enough to envision a newsroom’s future. Strong words for a man who’s supposed to be doing just that for his students. “Hoffman convinced me I’m way out of my element,” he comments.

Reid Hoffman weighs in with a lengthy comment on McGuire’s post, proposing to offer “some rays of hope.” However, there’s little hope evident in what he says.

Meanwhile, the publisher of the San Antonio Express-News exhorted his colleagues to fight the good fight at the Texas Daily Newspaper Association’s annual convention. Thomas Stephenson said that investing in digital platforms is only part of the solution. Newspapers have to earn reader loyalty and then make it easy for advertisers to reach them through whatever channels they can.



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