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State of local newspapers
Old 08-08-2016, 10:16 AM   #1
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State of local newspapers

John Oliver's piece last week regarding the state of local newspapers chasing digital clicks vs watchdog journalism of local and state government. Please don't read this as a political issue...it's not. (National media might be another story)
If you don't watch the whole piece at least skip to 15:20 to see the fake movie trailer.


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Old 08-08-2016, 12:38 PM   #2
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Not so much to do with journalism as with the process of putting out the product, my local paper is at times very poorly thrown together. It seems like there is no proof reader or editor looking over the articles or even pages before it goes to print.

Sometimes an article ends in the middle of a sentence like it was supposed to be continued on another page. Other times, the articles continue on other pages but are totally non sequitur, not even the same article. And the spelling and grammar are often atrocious.

Occasionally, the same article is printed twice in different places in the same edition and other times the same article appears again the next day. I guess it doesn't matter that much since it is 80% ads anyway.
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Old 08-08-2016, 12:56 PM   #3
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We don't have a local daily paper any more. I think they even vacated the building, and laid off the staff. Instead of a daily paper, several times a week we get ads with a fake front page wrapped around them thrown on our front lawns, whether we want the litter or not.

The website is still there but the grammar, spelling and lack of basic information are appalling.
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Old 08-08-2016, 01:00 PM   #4
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The main local paper around here has become a joke. They have been a political voice/cheerleader for one side for years, but now they have taken it further and will routinely delete any comments that point out factual errors in their stories or that support the other side. News, when reported seems to be a minor sideline to their political agenda.

They lose readers every month and will eventually fold.
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Old 08-08-2016, 01:07 PM   #5
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The paper here has declined. It used to be paid subscription, but now they just pass them out free. I pick it up from the driveway and toss it in the recycle bin.
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Old 08-08-2016, 01:18 PM   #6
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I don't know just how local Oliver considers local as I cannot stay focused on a rant video that long (a little paragraph summing up his rant and conclusions might help) but our major area paper (to which we continue to have a paid subscription) is not kind to the politicians in power, investigates them thoroughly, and does not seem to be driven by clicks, while our local papers pretty much ignore all public issues beyond teacher contracts. I inagine the big paper's owners expect the writers, all with shiny j-school degrees, to be able to write and so have cut back on much of the editorial support services that used to be necessary. But maybe that's not what Oliver is talking about?
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Old 08-08-2016, 01:37 PM   #7
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The local paper here is okay, but not stellar. Admittedly I don't think there is all that much going on to report in a newspaper, but they try. They also report on much of the good things that are going on, like efforts of people/organizations to raise money for the parts of the state heavily damaged by the flooding last month. That's why I keep the subscription.

They don't spare the politicians - leading story a few days ago was a candidate running for sheriff being locked up for possession of heroin. Oops. Well, this is West Virginia.

I don't bother with their web site - it just repeats what's in the print edition. Occasionally I'll spot printing errors but it is not the norm, and the spelling/punctuation is about what one would expect in a small-town newspaper. Not terrible, but not great either.
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Old 08-08-2016, 02:29 PM   #8
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We have a couple local papers near here that are currently in the news... allegedly not paying their bills and in turmoil... wouldn't surprise me to see them shuttered. Too bad.. when I lived there (about 30 miles from where I now live) back in the day they were a staple of the community. Our local paper where I live now seems to be doing well and has a small but loyal following.
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Old 08-08-2016, 02:32 PM   #9
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Heck...Half the local paper here is sports, (games). Games is not news. It is entertainment. We do have a few journalists that do a good job of turning the lights on in a dark room. The news business has changed.
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Old 08-08-2016, 02:43 PM   #10
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The local paper is just as bad as the big city paper. In addition, I find it very sad, even shameful, the state of journalism is in.

When I see local sport stories "butchered", as in kids' wrong name, misquotes, and bad story line, I can see why no young person would think the reported news was accurate. Stories that I was actually involved with in my industry while I was employed, were so off the mark, I don't consider any one source true. I read several and am forced to read between the lines.
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State of local newspapers
Old 08-08-2016, 03:02 PM   #11
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State of local newspapers

The money maker for newspapers, for just about ever, was classified and commercial advertising. Craigslist and the internet changed all that. While I agree newspapers today generally suck, they can't do real journalism with no revenue stream. I do subscribe to the metro paper and the local paper, but I don't think subscriptions pay for much more than the printing and delivery.
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Old 08-08-2016, 03:19 PM   #12
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The money maker for newspapers, for just about ever, was classified and commercial advertising. Craigslist and the internet changed all that. While I agree newspapers today generally suck, that can't do real journalism with no revenue stream. I do subscribe to the metro paper and the local paper, but I don't think subscriptions pay for much more than the printing and delivery.
Agreed that they made a bunch of money on their ads.... but they kinda killed themselves by charging so much... this was 36 years ago when I put in a death notice for my dad... kinda small, like only a few lines... cost (IIRC) like $300... I wondered what those people paid for a half column....


Hmmm, are you still supposed to publish a death notice?
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Old 08-08-2016, 04:21 PM   #13
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The Austin paper is still quite good, but cutbacks are definitely having an impact. They have shut down the local printing presses and the paper is printed in Houston and San Antonio (I think), so anything that happens after about 8pm doesn't make the paper. Quite annoying to read some articles 36 hours after the event. Also they have seriously cut back on op-eds and editorials (from 5-6 most days to 2 except on Sunday) and will not be endorsing election candidates anymore (too many candidates to interview and not enough staff).

That said, I enjoyed John Oliver's piece and agree that the value of real investigative journalism as done almost exclusively by newspapers is seriously underestimated. Finding some other ways to get it paid for is going to be critical in the next decade.
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Old 08-08-2016, 04:52 PM   #14
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I worked for 30 years in daily newspaper journalism, so I don't need to hear Oliver's account. I was there when management laid off two-thirds of the newsroom staff because there wasn't enough money coming in. A big chunk of those layoffs involved copy editors. Those reporters who didn't get the ax found their workload doubling. The saddest part -- suburban governments that were once covered faithfully now go about their business with little or no public scrutiny.

I was lucky in that my newspaper was locally owned (until recently) and management had a commitment to quality. But that's the exception in the business today. Most papers are part of a chain that's publicly traded, so the quarterly earnings have to satisfy stockholders. Since earnings are on a long slide, that means costs will continue to be cut and the product will continue to decline.

I was always proud of my job, and considered myself a working cog in the engine of democracy. That may sound corny, but I don't think it's a coincidence that our country's political dialog has deteriorated so steeply in the last decade.
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Old 08-08-2016, 06:58 PM   #15
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I still subscribe to my regional daily major. But lets face it, does anyone under 40 or 50 even subscribe to a paid newspaper? Its dying at both ends... The readership itself and the ad revenue streams. And then our paper slants to a bias that older people are not as accustomed to which further alienates the one group that is still willing to pay to buy or read it.
Hopefully in some format it survives.


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Old 08-08-2016, 07:21 PM   #16
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We dropped our subscription to the Chicago Tribune about 6 months ago.

The straw that broke the camel's back was the delivery person would get the paper in the ditch about 1/4 of the time (standing water if any recent rains, a bit of a stretch for me even when dry)). You can't drop the paper on the driveway? I asked for replacements a couple times. Then I called, complained, and it happened again. That was it.

But also, the paper was almost all generic filler. A few gems from time to time that kept me hanging on. But most articles had so little depth, that it wasn't worth reading. Every once in while, they would do an 'in-depth' article, but I swear the writer was told to fill three pages. The writing was so tortured, it was near impossible to read. A 3 page article might have made a good one page article with proper writing/editing (but shouldn't a good writer be able to write clearly and concisely w/o an editor over their shoulder?). The article might be about a family dispute, and they would keep saying "and then Johnson...", OK, which Johnson are you talking about? It just took too much work to decode everything. I want information, not a puzzle.

To an earlier poster - yes, I realize that good journalists provide a real service by challenging politicians, industries, etc. But that function can be filled by other resources, it doesn't need to be only print media. In our area, the BGA (Better Government Association) is doing a pretty good job:

Better Government Association

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Old 08-08-2016, 08:10 PM   #17
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Our local paper gets thinner and thinner and costs more and more every year. I don't know how much longer it can last. That's certainly not a surprise given the vastly changed economics of the business, but it is a disappointment. Sitting down with a cup of coffee and the morning paper has always been an enjoyable ritual for the young wife and me.
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Old 08-08-2016, 08:21 PM   #18
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Our local paper (Dayton Daily News) is okay. I don't get to read it every day, but we still subscribe. They do a fair job of tracking the local political shenanigans, but I'd be happier if there was still more investigative reporting. But its head and shoulders ahead of the broadcast media in providing in-depth articles and some context.
I don't bother with their online edition unless I need to search the archives for something.
The subscription is not a particularly good bargain, but I do feel it is important to fund the folks who are casting a light on the behind-the-scenes activities in local government, reporting on local crimes, keeping us abreast of good news stories and issues of the day, etc. Our community would lose something important if the paper went under. I'm not aware of any other reliable source for the same information. If young voters aren't reading the paper, I wonder how they are making decisions on local bond measures, levies, etc.
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Old 08-08-2016, 08:22 PM   #19
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Our local paper gets thinner and thinner and costs more and more every year. I don't know how much longer it can last. That's certainly not a surprise given the vastly changed economics of the business, but it is a disappointment. Sitting down with a cup of coffee and the morning paper has always been an enjoyable ritual for the young wife and me.
Yes, it's a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. They give us less, charge us more, and then bemoan the fact that fewer and fewer of us are supporting them!

While I used to enjoy sitting with the Sunday paper and a coffee, it turned into me mostly complaining about how poorly written, or ill-informed, or biased the articles were. The enjoyment level dropped off.

Maybe like the ritual of vinyl LPs versus convenience of digital music media, the ritual of a newspaper is more satisfying than reading news on-line. But on-line I can at least find different views, and with a bit of effort, likely find higher quality information.

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Old 08-08-2016, 10:05 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
.

To an earlier poster - yes, I realize that good journalists provide a real service by challenging politicians, industries, etc. But that function can be filled by other resources, it doesn't need to be only print media. In our area, the BGA (Better Government Association) is doing a pretty good job:

Better Government Association

-ERD50
The BGA has been around a long time. There are other nonprofit investigative news agencies around the country, but not many. It takes a big population center to keep one going. They're basically using the model established by public broadcasting -- beg for money and hope the donations pay the bills. If some wealthy foundations get on board, that can be a workable formula.
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