Letter From the Editor
The Incredible Shrinking Newspaper
Newspapers are supposed to report the news, not make it.
Evolution has turned that truism obsolete.
After more than a decade with double-digit profits, newspapers dailes and weeklies, alike are suffering a double whammy. Staggering from on-line competition, newspapers have taken a hit to the gut in this sluggish economy. On the ropes, they’ve sought salvation in change. But we fear they may be punch drunk, as they’re canibalizing themselves.
The Sun still rose on Sunday, August 24. But this newly eclipsed Sun looked like nothing its readers had seen before. It’s a mutation all too familiar to newspaper observers across America.
Outside of Washington and New York, it’s about the best newspaper readers are going to get.
From coast to coast, newspapers are making news as they respond to journalism’s version of climate change. They’re shrinking, the way we’re told our coastlines will as global warming feeds world oceans. And within their pages, species are disappearing, from capital and international coverage to columns, from comics to editorial cartoonists.
Change is redefining The Capital, too. You’ve seen it, month after month since publisher Philip Merrill’s death two summers ago. By now, it’s an old story in American journalism.
First, a once-independent newspaper is sold to an outlying corporation. Instead of an informed, watchful neighbor, you wake to a stranger, a newspaper with no community ties but a penchant for profit.
Next, come the cuts, both to quantity and to quality. Pages will be fewer, even smaller. Why pay a local when you can share cheaper syndicated views? Both Sun and Capital “bought out” their editorial cartoonists. Reporters are let go in droves, especially the older ones paid more for their experience and perspective. Wave after wave, the cuts keep coming.
So it’s no surprise that Capital editor and publisher Tom Marquardt’s relocated Sunday column of August 24 was headed “Some cutbacks necessary.”
At Bay Weekly, all this is news we can’t ignore, as it won’t ignore us. As an advertising-supported newspaper caught in the same economic tide, we’re having to change, too. With your help, we hope to change for the better.
You’re reading one change, the first in a series of Letters from the Editor in place of that relic of old journalism, the omniscient, anonymous editorial. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be talking to you about what’s happening and what I make of it.
Like any letter writer, I’m hoping for your answers. For the one certain truth in this changing climate is that no newspaper weekly or daily will make it alone.
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