State Of Newspapers Is Grim And Gloomy
It was about a dozen years ago that I first realized newspapers were in trouble.
A house around the corner from mine had an SUV parked on the street with a “For Sale” sign in the window. We were looking for a car, so as soon as I saw it, I knocked on the door.
“Sorry,” said the guy who answered. “I just sold it.”
I expressed surprise, since the sign hadn’t been there a few hours earlier.
“Oh I didn’t sell it that way,” he told me. “I put it on Craigslist. Sold in an hour. Buyer’s on his way over.”
“You didn’t put it in the paper?” I asked stupidly.
“Why would I?” he laughed. “Craigslist is free.”
Fast too, I thought.
That’s when it hit me. The cash that had always poured into newspapers from classified ads was about to dry up.
About a year later, the recession started to pick off big advertisers as businesses shuttered, consolidated or simply stopped buying ads. On top of that, the price of newsprint soared.
The industry took hit after hit.
Today, with the rest of the economy booming, newspapers are still in peril.
There’s no good way to spin this: A Pew Research Center report on the state of American papers is bleak.
With few exceptions, circulation is down. Ad revenue is off. Jobs are vanishing.
And newspaper wages? They’ve flat-lined for the past five years. (Actually, they’ve been static for at least a decade.)
No wonder so many reporters and editors - the ones who haven’t been laid off - are leaving skid marks on newsroom floors as they flee for better-paying jobs.
Yet here’s something that confounds me: With a few exceptions, most newspaper editorial boards are relentlessly liberal. They cheer big government, expanded entitlements and push for higher taxes.
But the people writing these opinion pieces know - from their own personal experience - that tax hikes erode the standard of living for those with stagnant paychecks.
You'd think these editorialists would empathize with middle-class workers by supporting tax cuts and fiscal restraint.
But you would be wrong.
Opinion pages that are seen as out of touch with regular people alienate many readers. That isn't the primary reason papers are hemorrhaging subscribers. But it doesn't help.
As someone who spent her entire adult life as a journalist, this study confirms a terrible truth: The industry I loved and labored in is failing.
And we NEED newspapers.
There is no better way to stay informed and keep politicians honest than with an energetic, enterprising daily paper. Yet many seem to be circling the drain.
Wherever you live, support your local newspaper.
Before it's too late.