Why Do We Need Local Papers Anymore?

There has been a spate of newspapers going broke or out of business in the last few weeks. The Rocky Mountain News is for sale. So is the Miami Herald. The Tribune, which owns the Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and The Baltimore Sun among others, are trying to stave off bankruptcy. Even the venerable New York Times has had its credit rating slashed to junk.

There are a lot of reasons why these papers are taking a beating. The new media is peeling off their readers. Craigslist is taking their classified ad revenue. Their own websites are even stealing their print readers despite the fact that their online editions produce much less revenue per set of eyeballs.

In addition, there is another important point that must be considered: most people just don’t need local papers anymore. Don’t buy that? Then ask yourself — what would draw the average person to a local paper?

The national news and foreign policy coverage? Almost all the papers either run the same stories off of a wire service or versions that are so close to what everyone else is running that they add very little to the story. If you watch the cable news networks or read the web, you’re getting the exact same info — and probably sooner to boot.

Opinion pieces? The web is awash with excellent opinion columnists.

What about “local local” news? Most areas have three local stations that thoroughly hit that niche every night.

Sports? You get excellent coverage of anything from the college level on up on the web and ESPN while the local news stations cover high school sports.

The comics section? Papers are famous for running old, dull, and out of date cartoons.

The classified ads section? Hello Craigslist!

So, what’s left? Well, there is original reporting — but, how many papers do outstanding original reporting on a regular basis? Honestly, very, very few. Even the best of them don’t break really big stories all that often.

Add to all that the fact that many newspapers have become so partisan that they’ve alienated large parts of their reader base with their liberal slant and you have a recipe for disaster — particularly in a recession, when advertising revenues tend to take a big hit right off the bat.

Now, are papers going to go away completely? No, but are there going to be some areas without local papers? Yes. Will we see some very big name papers go completely out of business in the next few years? Yes. Will we see a significant number of papers dramatically shrink their staffs as they completely move over to the web? Yes.

The newspaper business is not an industry with a bright future and given their relentless cheerleading for the Democrats, the dull quality of the copy they put out, the contempt with which they treat their customers, and their insistence on sticking to a faltering business model, it’s hard to feel much sympathy for them.

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