Newspaper decline hurts everyone

May 19th, 2009 by Ken

(The following story ran in the April 09 edition of my newsletter.)

There’s no doubt that the daily newspaper as we know it, is in dangerous waters.  Paper after paper have posted staggering losses and paper after paper have been cutting back on employees and news coverage.

Our own daily newspaper is down to just a handful of reporters following recent layoffs.

For decades, to own and operate a daily newspaper was like printing money.  There was no advertising recourse to a daily newspaper.

But it wasn’t only the business community which used the daily paper to advertise its products, you and  I did as well.

When we had a car to sell, we advertised in the newspaper’s classified section.  When we looked for work, we looked in the classified section, although it was called the want ads.

When we wanted to buy a  boat, hire a handiman or find a dog, we looked in the newspaper’s classified section.

It was a big money maker for newspapers bringing in millions of dollars.  At its pinnacle in the early 1990’s The Olympian  was taking in some $30 million dollars a year, some 80 percent of it from its classified advertising section.

We all used it.  And what did we get in return?  We got the news, all of the news.

We could find out who got married, who got divorced, who had applied for a marriage license, who had a baby.

We learned when our local government was going to change the speed limit on our street.  We found out when school was starting.  We found out what our tax rate was going to be after the latest tax increase and we learned about some new government rule or regulation that applied to our lives.

We got all of this and more from our daily newspaper, from the fees we paid and from the money we spent advertising our garage sale or giving away our new kittens.

And the news, all of the news, was subsisdized by the newspaper’s classified advertising section.

Then something happened.  The newspaper’s classified section – – went away.  People stopped using it, people stopped looking at it, and it just – – went away.

And so did 80 percent of the newspaper’s revenue.

People began to look on-line for a new car.  They began to look on-line for a new house.  When they had something to sell they went on Craig’s List or one of the other many on-line sites.  It wa cheaper and it was often free.

Thus began the decline of our daily newspaper.

It wasn’t a slow decline.  It hit hard and quick.  Before we knew it, our daily newspaper was a sad shadow of itself.

There are some who take joy in the demise of The Olympian, but I’m not one of them.

I liked seeing the paper brought down a peg or two, but I didn’t want it killed, and that’s almost where it is.

And, when The Olympian dies, we’ll be worse off for it.

Every community needs a newspaper to educate, to inform and to motivate people to action.  It needs a newspaper to cover all of the community events and it needs a newspaper to keep local government honest.

We won’t have that much longer.

Posted in The Real News

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