Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pursuing mid-size circulation

I'll have to admit, this one really hurt. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution used to "cover Dixie like the dew," or at least the Journal did, until it became politically incorrect to say the word Dixie out loud. It was affectionately called the urinal-constipation by resident conservatives, of which there were many in Georgia. My journalism school was named for Henry Grady who popularized the term "New South." He was editor of the Constitution. Across my campus students made a little extra money by selling subscriptions to the AJC. At the time there was a newspaper war going on. The New York Times had purchased the Gwinnett Daily News and tried to take on the AJC. They built a multimillion-dollar three story building. The president of the Times told the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce they were going to march through Atlanta like Sherman. Two years later they folded. I worked for the newspaper that took the Daily News' Gwinnett County niche, the Gwinnett Daily Post.
When I went to the University of Georgia, the local newspaper, Athens Banner-Herald and Daily News (still a morning and afternoon paper in the 90s, can you believe it?) barely bothered to sell on campus. It was the paper of locals. Students were mostly Atlanta kids who wanted Atlanta news. Now the AJC is abandoning the Athens market completely.
I have no idea what their circulation was in Athens at the end, but it is a community of over 100,000, and I'd be willing to bet it was at least 15,000, maybe more.
With such increased retrenchment, it is clear many big-city dailies that once covered their entire state (Dallas, Atlanta, Minneapolis) are now focused in on the immediate metro. They are seeking to emulate to profitability of many midsized dailies that still dominate their market. Small circ, locally focused.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What is ten percent of nothing?

It always warms my heart when I can beat the Death Watch to a tidbit of news. Morris Communications, owner of the paper in the town of my alma mater, is forcing everyone to take five to ten percent pay cuts. This is the same Morris Communications which built a multimillion dollar news building in a town with a 30,000 circulation newspaper. The building has a helicopter pad. Rumor has it that the Morris family had to sell their helicopter to pay debts. At the very least, I never saw a helicopter land there. And this was in the go-go 90s.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tossed salad and scrambled eggs

As all of you have heard by now, Tuesday's is the last edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. And the webheads rejoice in the death of another newspaper (don't deny it, note the snarky attitude toward Kathleen Parker, or anyone who feels nostalgic for the printed paper, or anyone who feels they are important to civilized society, or anyone who thinks good grammar and fact checking is a good idea). Seeing as how the P-I is operating without copy editors, I wonder in what multiple of 10 the daily errors would be.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Journalism apostates

Just when Paul Gillin tries to convince that he is not an enemy of the press, he takes down those who speak lovingly of their craft. He calls it" journalistic self-indulgence today as newsroom veterans tell their readers about what a great job they’re doing in the apparent self-deception that readers give a hoot:"
Have you noticed how the journalism apostate's talk about our audience as if it were a monolithic entity that en masse is rejecting our craft. If we heed their call, the solution to this disease is to abolish journalism that markets to an entire community and focus on discreet groups with blogs.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Whither the archives?

  • The obituaries of the Rocky said that Scripps is selling the name, Web site and archive. Which raises a larger question. With a handful of newspapers already closed and more threatening to close, what is the future of their archives -- which we used to call, interestingly enough, their morgue, and which, for many records before, say, 1990, still exists in those file cabinets that made up the morgue? I can say from experience these archives are some of the most complete records of a city's existence. Most cities have newspaper archives on microfilm, but in most cases they are not indexed. The only index exists in the morgue, because clipping were taken and put in alphabetical order by subject. These morgues also contain the original photos, not just the printed halftones. I would hope that Congress, when it's not passing laws about chimpanzees, would outlaw throwing away this important history at any newspaper, though I fear it may have already happened in some places.
  • By the way, since we're all doomed, I think the newspaper industry needs an elegaic theme. At the risk of sounding maudlin, how about Iris Demint's "Our Town"?