Newsprint Eulogy

February 14, 2020

Another sad event in the shifting world of good journalism.

(Illustration found here).

News gathering has always been a hard row-to-hoe, even in the best of times. Technology switched the goal posts all around, which created a vacuum of sorts, especially within a dying breed, print journalism. Just in the last decade-and-half the newspaper industry has really suffered, especially during/after the Great Recession, and apparently continuing today.
McClatchy is a solid force for good journalism, always has been. Such the pity.
Pretty-much the ugly reality — via CNN yesterday:

In another sign of the growing financial crisis in print journalism, McClatchy (MNI), the owner or 30 US newspapers, has filed for bankruptcy protection.
The company, whose newspapers include the Miami Herald, The Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, The Charlotte Observer, The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Texas, says it plans to stay in business and emerge from bankruptcy in the next few months.
McClatchy is the nation’s second largest publisher of local newspapers behind only Gannett, the publisher of USA Today and hundreds of local newspapers.
Gannett has had its own problems and was recently acquired by New Media Investment Group.
McClatchy and some of the newspaper companies it has acquired over the years, including Knight-Ridder, have a long had a higher reputation than Gannett for quality news reporting.
It recently won two Pulitzer Prizes and many other awards, most recently for the Miami Herald’s coverage of the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.

Despite that reputation for quality, it has been cutting staff in response to falling revenue and mounting losses. Company filings show McClatchy had 3,500 full-time and part-time employees as of December 31, 2018, the most recent figure available.
Five years earlier it reported just over twice as many employees.
The company’s press release said it has reduced its operating expenses by $186.9 million, or 23.3-percent, in the last three years alone, but it wasn’t enough.

The situation, however, is just another brick in the wall:

The job cuts at McClatchy have become the norm for the troubled newspaper industry, which has seen increased competition from online outlets for both readers and advertising dollars.
Labor Department data show that jobs at newspapers have fallen every year since 1998, a net loss of nearly 300,000 jobs during that period.
That represents a nearly 70-percent drop in employment.

I’m fortunate to have spent a few years in a newspaper newsroom during the fabled golden age of journalism in the 1970s — less than a year after graduation from the University of Florida, I landed a job as police reporter at The Montgomery Advertiser in Montgomery, Alabama.
In reference to the ‘golden age’ of journalism, we were still basking in Watergate, and empowered by such cultural re-enforcers as “All The President’s Men” (1976), and the influence of investigating corruption, we were working at more than just a job.
Newspapers were happening in the 70s — ‘62 million copies of the country’s 1,748 daily newspapers circulated every day.’
In 2018, reportedly daily newspaper circulation (both print and digital combined) was estimated to be about 28.6 million for weekday (down 8-percent from the year before), and 30.8 million for Sunday (down 9-percent).

I went from the cop beat to covering the legal system, even tried my hand at investigative pieces, but it being Alabama, malfeasance among a shitload of people was rampant — some stories could write themselves. After my life changed directions in the late ’70s, I was out of the journalism game for 20 years.
And en-entering was a trip.

In 1998, circumstances provided a chance to get back in a newsroom with a job at the twice-weekly Times-Press-Recorder (TPR) in Arroyo Grande, California, just off the Central Coast — in fact, however, AG is considered a coastal-area town. Originally established in 1887 and labeled the Five Cities TPR for the five towns (nowhere near cities) the publication covered right along the shoreline — Shell Beach, Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, Oceano, and AG, and the name shortened to the TPR when Pulitzer Inc, purchased it as part of a package deal of other newspapers in the region, including the Santa Maria Times, the TPR‘s mother ship.
And like part of a routine, Pulitzer gutted the TPR, eventually selling it less than a decade later.
Instead of applying resources needed for coverage in a growing area of California, Pulitzer did the opposite.
Newsroom staff went from about a dozen when I arrived in ’98, down to less than half that when I left over a wage dispute five years later.
One lady in the advertising department at the time described the people running the operation as being full of ‘arrogant incompetence.’ A term I later used to obviously portray George W and his boys in Iraq, and elsewhere.

History of the TPR is terrible. In January 2005, Pulitzer and all the TPR-affiliated newspapers were sold to Iowa-based Lee Enterprises Inc.
Three years later, Lee pulled the plug in AG, shutting down the TPR office there, retreating to Santa Maria, while at the same time, went from publishing two days a week to only one day a week. And further along, the TPR eventually closed-up shop in 2016.

Truly a community newspaper, and a good news source for awhile, anyway. I enjoyed my time at the TPR, and because of staffing, performed several jobs at once, covered certain areas, (city council/county commissions, arts, any news, wrote/edited stories, plus handled the lay-out, building pages.
I can’t find the TPR’s site anywhere, it’s probably out there on the InterWebs somewhere.
However, the TPR‘s Facebook page is still apparently active — found here.

Here’s the TPR‘s obituary per The Tribune in San Luis Obispo, May 23, 2016:

The Times Press-Recorder will publish its last paper Friday — ending a 129-year tradition of covering the Five Cities and South County.
In a letter to subscribers, the company announced the Times Press-Recorder would shut down after Friday because of decreases in advertising revenue and increases in costs.
The community newspaper is owned by Lee Central Coast Newspapers, which also owns the Santa Maria Times and Adobe Press.

The company also announced the Santa Maria Times would stop publishing a Monday newspaper next week. Monday stories would go online only at santamariatimes.com.
All employees with the Times Press-Recorder and Adobe Press will be reassigned to the Santa Ynez Valley News — another Lee Central Coast community paper, she said — though they will continue to cover some South County topics.
The newspaper has been published once weekly on Fridays since 2008, when the company ended its Wednesday run and shut down its Arroyo Grande office amid the economic downturn.

In keeping with print journalism’s portfolio, Lee Enterprises filed for bankruptcy in December 2011.

(Illustration: Pablo Picasso’s ‘Agonizing Horse’ (found here),

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