Newspapers, bankruptcy and the economy

Newspapers, bankruptcy and the economy

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In trying to halt the country’s financial tailspin last week, President Obama signed the $787-billion stimulus bill. This week, he addressed Congress, vowing that “we will rebuild, we will recover.”

Closer to home (literally and figuratively), several newspaper groups have filed for bankruptcy recently, reinforcing that old media business models aren’t turning the profit they used to. Among them are Philadelphia Newspapers LLC — which owns The Inquirer and Daily News; Tribune Co., Journal Registry Co. and Star Tribune Holdings Corp.

As part of the bankruptcy proceedings, Inquirer publisher Brian Tierney pledged to return his 2008 pay raise of $232,000. (He now only makes $618,000.)

The San Francisco Chronicle announced this week that it may close; if it does, it will make San Francisco the first major metropolitan city without a daily paper.

In December, the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News announced they would end daily home delivery, the first major metropolitan newspapers in the United States to do so.

In gay media, the news isn’t as grim, but there are still casualties. Recently, The Advocate restructured, going from biweekly to monthly and putting more news content online. Others, such as Gay People’s Chronicle, have gone from weekly to biweekly. The investment company that owns Window Media, which publishes Southern Voice and Washington Blade, is reportedly in receivership with the Small Business Administration.

Last year, the New England Blade, previously IN newsweekly, went on indefinite hiatus.

And in mainstream, alternative and LGBT media, most print publications have seen reductions in advertising and corresponding page counts.

The reasons for the changes are varied and broad. On one hand, most newspapers weren’t started strictly as a profitable endeavor, and the newsgathering portion has always had to be subsidized. Also, how people consume media and news has changed. No longer does a paperboy stand on the corner hawking the day’s news. In addition to TV and cable, the Internet has changed the game. Expecting newspapers to turn an ever-increasing profit isn’t realistic.

Too often, old media (read: print) has failed to evolve fast enough to keep up. They have tried to continue old ways of doing business instead of responding to the market and their readers.

Despite all this, people still need information. And journalism still serves a necessary purpose. Is the industry changing? Certainly. Is print still a viable medium? Yes. Are we tightening our collective belts? Yes. Is PGN closing? No.

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