Monday, June 09, 2008

Those Incredible Shrinking Newspapers

If you're like me and have been mitigating the shortcomings of Wendy McCaw's News-Press by turning to the L.A. Times as a daily read, I have bad news. The Times is about to get a whole lot smaller.

How much smaller? Try 82 fewer news pages a week. The changes are detailed in an article in today's New York Times.

Once the transition has been completed the result will be a paper with pages split 50-50 between news content and ads. (That doesn't include classified and special advertising sections.)

With so much content being excised from the paper what will be left? According to The N.Y. Times article, Sam Zell, who owns Tribune Co., the L.A. Times' parent, "has said before that he disagrees with the heavy allocation of resources to national and international news." After all, when you can collect national or international news from a multitude of sources with the click of a mouse, local news is a newspaper's only real hold on readers.

Somebody needs to tell that to McCaw. Although she has time and time again promised us "the best coverage of local news to be had," the only thing "being had" are those readers who were naive enough to believe her.

As noted in The N.Y. Times article "a newspaper dominated by wire articles would offer little that was original — and little temptation to a reader who could just as easily go to Google or Yahoo for news."

And these days, the News-Press certainly fits the description of "a newspaper dominated by wire articles."

So if Wendy is wondering where her readers have migrated to, the answer is the Internet, where many of her advertisers are no doubt fleeing to as well.

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Never on Monday! While the L.A. Times is planning to shed pages another paper to the south of us is taking things even further than that, they will be publishing one less day a week. The Daily Pilot in Orange County will not be producing a print edition on Mondays. From now on, Monday will be on-line only.

* * *

Another newspaper that's seen a lot of transitions lately, is the San Fernando Valley's Daily News.

Latest to leave that paper is assistant managing editor George Foulsham. You may remember George as being the managing editor of the News-Press under Jerry Roberts and among the first wave of resignations at De la Guerra Plaza back in July of 2006.

For George the departure from the Daily News means an end to 35 years in the newspaper business. He's taking a job as the news director at UCSB. In an e-mail, George wrote:

"I'm lucky to have landed in a great job working with a wonderful staff of folks in the public affairs office at UCSB. I think this job will last awhile. Not sure I could say that about any newspaper these days. And that's very sad."

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Congratulations to the Indy's Nick Welsh who won the media reporting/criticism award for small papers from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies for his coverage of the News-Press meltdown.

And let the record reflect that the Independent is the only paper I've mentioned in today's post that hasn't shrunk in size as of late.