One of my old newspaper buddies clings to the notion that the Kansas City Star will follow the New Orleans Times-Picayune and publish just three days a week.
I’ve asked and Star management have denied that prediction.
However, in looking at the Monday and Tuesday newspapers, well, they made Twiggy look fat. The opinion pages became an opinion page. Letters to the editor became one highlighted effort.
How can the Star maintain subscribers with such a tight news hole when they couple that negative with all the rest, including poor customer relations, inconsistent circulation procedures, dwindling experienced staff and questionable pursuit of stories?
Maybe management is saving newsprint so they can increase space for the Monday stories of the Chiefs and the NFL. Well, you got another idea?
Here’s the saga of the Times-Picayune. In May 2012, the paper bosses announced they would cut back its publishing schedule to three days a week and lay off staff. The paper reported that a new company would be formed, the NOLA Media Group, which would include the paper and the web site. The newspaper would be home delivered and available in stores on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only. The web site, meanwhile, would increase its online news-gathering efforts.
Newhouse Newspapers, part of Advance Publications, operates the Times-Picayune. Three Newhouse papers in Alabama — Birmingham News, Huntsville Times and Mobile Press-Register — similarly restructured. They would become part of the newly formed Alabama Media Group and would print only three days a week.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Newark Star-Ledger and Portland Oregonian are among other newspapers owned by Newhouse.
The moves announced for the New Orleans and Alabama newspapers were pitched as needed adjustments to the way news is delivered and consumed by the public. Nola.com ran an article that quoted Ricky Mathews, the president of NOLA Media group: “Our best path to success lies in a digitally focused organization that combines the award-winning journalism of The Times-Picayune and the strength of NOLA.com.”
When the decision to stop daily circulation at the Times-Picayune, 50 local businesses wrote an open to the Newhouse family to sell the paper instead of cutting it back. The businesses noted that the newspaper was profitable in its 7-day format. Obviously, not profitable enough, huh.
The limited publication of the paper made New Orleans the largest American city not to have a daily newspaper. However, the Baton Rouge Advocate began publishing a New Orleans edition each day to fill the perceived gap.
Half of the Times-Picayune newsroom staff were notified they would lose their jobs. In September 2012, the paper began publishing its broadsheet paper on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Along with the change, the paper began publishing a special tabloid-sized edition following Sunday and Monday New Orleans Saints football games.
Aha, Chiefs fans.
All that changed again in April of last year when the paper’s publisher announced plans to print a tabloid version, Times-Picayune Street, on Mondays, Tuesday and Thursdays. The first edition came in June.
The Advocate continues to publish its New Orleans edition.
I continue to stand by my sense, my opinion, my belief, my impression that a newspaper can thrive in these days of electronic suffocation. During numerous conversations, I hear someone mention a particular incident and the only place the story originated was the newspaper. It happens over and over again.
Of course, newspaper publishers must continue to produce a readable edition. Cutting staff, cutting news hole and cutting credibility won’t get the job done.
While focusing on the plight of gathering news, Steve Paul, the Star’s editorial page editor, touched on the nay-saying against newspapers. He wrote, “It’s fashionable to declare the death of ‘newspapers.’ And, by ‘newspapers’ I mean those media operations that bring news of the world and your community to your doorstep and/or to the device screen of your choosing.”
I disagree, in part. I’m pleased he put the “newspapers” in quotes because reading an internet story simply isn’t the same. Sorry.
He went on to say: “Sure, it is difficult to be an optimist in this atmosphere of technological upheaval and consumer fragmentation. When we can find large amounts of micro-sliced, unfiltered information on the Internet, what really does journalism offer? And what does it mean to be a journalist anyway?
“‘Newspapers’ don’t often tell their own stories of how and why we do what we do. We just assume that those who read our pages or our online postings value the institution and what it offers — or at least put up with it enough to take away something of interest, even if it’s just something to complain to us about.”
He’s right. Newspaper folks do a horrible job of communicating in their roles as communicators. You ask about a certain business decision made by newspaper management and you may get a no comment. Stuff like that happens all the time with newspapers. You ask who was laid off and you get a no comment. You try to pin them down and they say what all businesses say: “We’re a private concern and we reserve the right to keep it that way.”
Oh so many problems with the newspaper.
But do you really think the Star will reduce its daily output? Geez, I hope not.
Awhile back, I was in Boston for a week and religiously read the Globe. I recall I used to think of it as a newspaper with lots of space and huge photos. Now the space is less and the photos smaller but the product is solid. The paper has numerous good features, like a full roundup of national news on page 2 and a full roundup of world news on page 3. They cover news. They cover it in a timely fashion. And they certainly didn’t squeeze the news hole all that much on the bad advertising days, like Monday and Tuesday.
Readers still read on those days, huh.
The Globe’s circulation is 215,700 daily and 363,000 on Sundays. The Star is 200,000 and 310,500. The Star has enough circulation to keep the news hole higher than what it has shone on Mondays and Tuesdays. After all, its editors say the paper is profitable. Probably in a big way.
Three times a week publishing, huh. Nope, not for the near future, anyway.