Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Newspapers Fold Jobs When New Model Screams for More Coverage

We noted the passing of the Tucson Citizen over the weekend, although it’s hard to say that it didn’t bring on its own demise. One more chapter remains, it appears, for that paper.
But it allows us to reflect on the end of the excellent Ann Arbor News, which will cease publication July 23. In its place will be a Web-based model, which is a smart plan.
We’ll keep this brief, as we’ve outlined what has happened to newspapers before. But one thing has jumped out at us repeatedly, and it’s this cutting of staff. Printing jobs, of course, can go. But eliminating reporters is simply a smoke screen and conflicts with this idea of a “new model.”
From the Ann Arbor News story: “As of March, a total of 272 people worked for the newspaper at its downtown Ann Arbor office, its Livingston County office and its Pittsfield Township printing plant…A total of 70 News employees previously accepted buyout offers, some of whom left before the announcement was made. All told, 214 jobs are being eliminated.”
The Web provides a larger news hole, not smaller, and a larger staff, composed of hungry young reporters with a year or two at a small daily, and veterans from large newsrooms, would be able to cover the community – government, law enforcement, education – more efficiently and completely. And using the Web in a smart way, there is no worry about word count, how to publish public records, get those killer Q & As and use things like audio and video for completely cover the news. Coverage could be geographically broadened, in fact, since access to news boxes is no longer an issue in terms of circulation.
But these newspaper companies have no interest in delivering the most complete news. Their troubling idea of operating a business has even opened the door to misguided notions to make newspapers government subsidized. You know, like they do in Cuba and other bastions of a free press.
We have the tools to provide the most complete media ever, to be that system that questions the people who use our money. We now have room for all the news that is fit to print. It won’t be happening from the folks at Gannett, Scripps, or Tribune. But it will from somewhere else; it's just a matter of time.

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