Laura Pevehouse Thomas

The Slow Death of the Newspaper Business Continues


In 1988, I entered Louisiana State University majoring in news/editorial journalism. Mid-way through my education, the Los Angeles Times was reporting that the nation’s newspaper publishers were facing “severe troubles on advertising and circulation fronts.”

Just one year later, The Morning Advocate newspaper there in Baton Rouge became simply The Advocate because the afternoon edition of The State-Times ceased publication. Several other cities with multiple newspapers or morning/evening editions also went to single-newspaper towns around that time.

Into that environment I graduated with a degree that should have pointed me to a career as a newspaper reporter, so I promptly fled to graduate school and public relations.
Newspaper Death
Flash forward twenty years and the Nielsen Wire blog was still asking “Is the Great American Newspaper Dead?” They said that “hope for a resurgence of the printed newspaper seems like a pipe dream.” And, “readership levels among younger persons would have to more than double to provide enough audience to sustain the big papers, and that would require reversing a declining trend that has been ongoing for decades.”

So it shouldn’t have really been any big surprise this week when I heard the news (through Facebook) that the New Orleans Times-Picayune was cutting back from daily to a thrice-weekly publication schedule. (although it surprised many of their employees who heard it first on Twitter, rather than from their employer).

Still I could only summon up a one-word comment as I shared the news on Twitter – “Wow.”

I don’t really have to state the obvious impact that the Internet has had on all this – the Nielsen story was on a blog, the first reports about the Times-Picayune were on a New York Times blog, and I heard about it on Facebook, while their employees heard it on Twitter.

I certainly am one to embrace things digital, but I also still like seeing the Austin American-Statesman in my driveway (or yard, usually when there’s wet grass to walk through to get it) seven days a week.

I love the speed with which I can download new books to my Kindle, but love a little bit more the fact that I’ve got a 1st edition signed copy of “Interview With The Vampire” on my bookshelf.

Maybe I’m just stuck in the middle of old and new. Raised on a diet of three newspapers in the house (one daily, two weeklies) by a teacher-turned-librarian mother, but growing up to be one of the metaverse evangelist crowd. Part of the first generation they couldn’t put a name on, and just branded with the letter X.

I see the sense it it when Jeff Jarvis says newspapers “had better have become digital companies.” The publications I primarily work with almost all have online versions, and after an interview with one of their reporters it seems strange if more than 24 hours passes without seeing the story they were writing show up in a Google alert – or on their Twitter account.

So, why do I feel a little sad?

Image via Creative Commons by Michael Scott

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