The future of newspapers |

The future of newspapers

How bad is it? Can it get worse? What’s going to happen?

Those are the popular questions when talking about the future of newspapers today.

Troubling times indeed. The past few weeks were packed full of gloom and doom news. Following the closure of the Rocky Mountain News, newspapers in Seattle and Michigan announced that they will halt their print operations. Seattle after 146 years and Ann Arbor, Mich. after 174 years. Both newspapers will continue as online-only media outlets.

Last week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution cut 30 percent of its newsroom. The Gannet Co., which operates 85 daily newspapers, announced another round of mandatory furloughs for its employees. The New York Times is cutting employee pay and laying off 100 people. The Washington Post launched a fourth round of employee buyouts.

These are some of the high-profile announcements, but as most of you know, the woes of the newspaper industry continues to impact all sizes of newspapers.

The future of this industry is in doubt, or at the very least the industry landscape will be dramatically impacted over the next few years ” if not months.

For the newspaper industry, everyone is in survival mode. Surviving the current economic hurricane is the goal. Then, who knows?

Lost jobs, less pay, more stress and a bottom-less crater of the unknown. That’s the newspaper industry in a nutshell.

At least 120 newspapers in the United States have shut down since January 2008, according to Paper Cuts, a website tracking the newspaper industry.

There’s even a website called Newspaper Death Watch. That’s how bad it is.

For the Post Independent, these unpredictable times have been a struggle. We’ve had to say good-bye to talented journalists who are even better people. We’ve cut popular features like comics, TV listings and our NASCAR page.

We have less people and that means less content.

It was always thought that the small community newspapers would be able to weather these turbulent times better than the larger newspapers. That’s still probably true. But the impact remains severe, and the future is not guaranteed for any newspaper large or small.

Many people have come to me asking why we don’t start charging for the newspaper. Maybe that’s a solution but those decisions are not mine.

Times will get worse before they get better. I deeply appreciate the messages and comments I’ve received from people who understand and sympathize with our current situation.

In the business of newspapers when advertising revenue drops, changes are the inevitable reality. The kind of changes we’ve been forced to make have consequences that frustrate many readers. These changes frustrate us as journalists as well.

One of the most disturbing things I’ve seen concerning the current state of the newspaper industry came from Greeley.

A few weeks ago, the Greeley mayor, Ed Clark, went on a radio show and arrogantly proclaimed that he hoped the Greeley Tribune would fold.

The mayor actually wants 140 workers to be unemployed? The mayor would rather see no newspapers than have one criticize him as a politician?

Newspapers have long been targets for criticism. It’s easy to throw stones when you see mistakes or something you don’t agree with. That’s something journalists accept. I’ve always said that besides politics, no other profession puts their work and their reputation on display for public praise, ridicule or criticism more than journalists.

Every time we hit the streets, someone will find something wrong or disappointing with the edition. But hopefully, they will find something satisfying and worthwhile as well.

A newspaper means so much to a community. For those people like Ed Clark, there’s a tremendous unwillingness to grasp the different values of a newspaper.

I try to imagine what it would be like for Glenwood Springs to not have a newspaper. There are many websites that provide valuable and important information. But it’s the newspaper that provides so many things for so many people virtually every day.

From obituaries to keeping an eye on our local government, a newspaper is the lifeblood of a community. Keeping track of the local sports teams to what’s happening in our schools, the newspaper has long been the information provider. Your letters to the editor, your wedding photos, your community announcements, the local newspaper is your community forum.

Some readers want a local paper just so they have something to complain about. But it’s doubtful that most would want the local paper to go away.

I think about the community spirit during the holidays when the Post Independent asked people to donate pet supplies, and food and toys for families in need. The response was tremendous and heartwarming.

A newspaper serves so many functions.

We hope you understand the difficult times that we and this industry are facing. We hope when things turn around that we will still be here, and can come back stronger. Yes, this industry is rapidly changing. Not necessarily for the better, but try and imagine a community without a newspaper.

Even if I wasn’t a newspaper guy, I don’t like to envision that possibility.

So many questions and so many people waiting for an answer.

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