Saturday, January 31, 2009
Death by a thousand paper cuts
A.H. Belo Co., owner of The Dallas Morning News and three other newspapers, plans to cut another 14 percent from its workforce -- some 500 jobs.
The Los Angeles Times, a Tribune paper, announced it would be lopping 300 positions -- 70 of them in the newsroom -- while folding its California section into the main news pages.
WEEK BY WEEK, the news gets grimmer for the dying newspaper biz and the bloodlettings continue apace. Week by week, subscribers to America's newspapers -- those what remain, that is -- find a lot less newspaper in the driveway.
And there lies the rub.
To cut costs, newspapers cut back on staff and news hole, which means the subscriber gets a lot less news for the same (or more) money. Which means more and more subscribers figure there's no percentage in subscribing to the local rag, which puts it further in the financial hole . . . which necessitates more cuts, which means less value to readers, which. . . .
You get the idea. I think the technical term is "death spiral." And it all goes back to the simple truth that, especially in hard times, people are reluctant to spend something for nothing.
Except for video poker or the lottery.
GIVEN THE LONG ODDS facing traditional media in this country, journalists at the L.A.Times and The Dallas Morning News might see that one-in-a-million shot as a significantly safer bet than the one upon which they've staked their livelihoods.
God bless 'em all.