I’ve been hearing disturbing news about the newspaper business the past few days. Major companies that publish large dailies in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia have filed bankruptcy petitions. Smaller papers around the country are struggling. One network commentator stated flatly that newspapers will soon be gone, a casualty of the Internet.
For a writer who got his start as a newspaper reporter, that is a sad prospect to consider. I don’t know that I would go so far as to agree with the idea that newspapers are dead, merely waiting for somebody to shovel the dirt over them. But if they’re to survive, a lot of re-inventing will have to take place.
The traditional daily in Nashville, a morning newspaper that survived after its evening competitor, for which I once worked, fell by the wayside several years ago, has shrunk considerably from its former size and bulk. An old page out of my files measured 14 by 24 inches. The current 11 by 23 is a one-fourth reduction. Sections have been combined, some dropped, and the number of pages has steadily declined.
Classified advertising, once a mainstay of newspapers, has been decimated by Craiglist and other Internet sites. Newspapers have beefed up their online presence, but I understand the ad revenue from their Internet ventures isn’t sufficient to support the effort.
I feel about newspapers the same as I do books. I like the touch of the paper and the opportunity to sit and thumb through them at my leisure. I use the Internet quite a bit for research, for communication by email, and at times to read snippets of the news. But I hope the daily press will find a way to maintain its presence in our lives. I think we’ll be poorer for the loss if they don’t.