Why “The Olympian” failed

September 25th, 2020 by Ken

By Danny Stusser

(Danny Stusser is the former owner and publisher of Coffee News.  He has started a new on-line newspaper called www.theJOLTnews.com.  He has written an 11 page letter to the community about his publication and why its needed.  It has been edited here for content and space.)

When I moved my family to Olympia in 1995 there were about 30 reporters and editors working at The Olympian, and the population of Thurston County was about half what it is today.  In those days, one could expect that at any public meeting there would be a reporter taking notes and maybe a photographer.  Today, (before the Pandemic) it would be a happy occasion if we saw one.

With only two reporters (as early as this past March) The Olympian can’t possibly cover everything.  Now they have four reporters, better, but still not enough.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still subscribe to The Olympian and I’m grateful it’s still in business.  I recommend that you subscribe too.

None of the problems of The Olympian are the fault of anyone who works there now or in any year since 1971 when the family owners sold the business to Gannett Company  the largest newspaper publisher in the United States.  In order to buy the paper, like other national news businesses it purchased, the company took on debt to make the acquisitions.

In 2005 Gannett traded The Olympian to Knight Ridder another national chain.  The next year Knight Ridder was sold to The McClatchy Company in another leveraged buyout and took on over $2 billion in debt to get that deal done.

The end of the McClatchy story is this.  The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2020.  Millions of dollars in legal fees later, on September 4, company ownership was transferred to the company’s largest debtor for $312 million.  The new owner is Chatham Asset Management which is usually described as a hedge fund and is located in Chatham, News Jersey.

Articles in the New York Times spelled out what happened when Chatham took control of Postmedia the largest newspaper chain in Canada.   They shut down 30 newspapers in the chain and laid off 1600 employees.   According to The Times, national and political coverage is prepared at a central site and inserted in its remaining papers.

But, it isn’t just sale and resale of newspapers that has led to the decline in The Olympian.

Craiglist took away the classified advertising business which accounted for nearly 40 percent of a newspaper’s business.  Social media which printed and reprinted what passes as news stories drew away subscribers who thought they were getting actual local news.  The spiral started   When once The Olympian had 44,000 paid subscribers, it now reports around 10,000.  On-line advertising on Google and Facebook has cut into display advertising at newspapers.

We need more local news coverage.

(Editors note:  Stusser has founded www.theJOLTnews.com.  The journal of Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater news.)

Posted in Business, History, The Real News

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