Why it’s important for our daily newspapers to survive

In its Monday, June 4, edition and in a column the previous week, The New York Times made reference to the challenges facing America’s daily newspapers, particularly relating to declining ad revenues that have led to staff layoffs, fewer days of publication and increased emphasis on online content.

The Times’ coverage was triggered, in part, by the recent announcement that The New Orleans Times-Picayune, one the of nation’s oldest newspapers, established 175 years ago, will go from its existing 7-day schedule to three days a week starting in the fall.

According to The Times’ Christine Haughney, daily newspapers across the country face the same or similar decisions—and they are both tough and emotional ones. Americans have grown up with the concept of a daily newspaper in their driveway, and switching to a vastly changed concept of news distribution has many of us worried.

Here’s why:

Covering news as it develops, analyzing what the news means to us as citizens, and serving as a watchdog of our constitutionally guaranteed First Amendment and other rights are critical to what we want—what we expect—as a nation. All of those require labor-intensive and informed reporting, which cannot be done on the cheap.

It goes without saying that the online model represents a much less costly process, and therefore newspapers theorize they may be able to make up, at least partially, for lost advertising revenue. This means fewer reporters and less likelihood that those remaining will be able to focus on the kind of in-depth coverage on which we have learned to rely.

While The Arizona Republic has given no indication that the reduced-frequency model is one they are considering, it definitely faces the same questions that are being pondered by other U.S. dailies. Gannett, the national media giant that owns The Republic and 82 other newspapers around the country, has said it still sees demand for a print product that reaches its readers every day of the week.

We hope The Republic will continue with its seven-day-per-week commitment.

It is true that small, community-focused publications like ours have taken on new relevance in the cities they serve. Our advertising revenue, and our readership, have stayed level over the past several years. The same can be said, we think, for papers like the one covering the San Tan area of Gilbert and south Chandler, another focusing on the Arcadia district of Phoenix and still others spread in neighborhoods across the Valley.

Collectively, our lower costs of production and our emphasis on stories that directly affect our readers have given us some apparent staying power that the larger papers simply can’t achieve.

Here’s the problem, however:

Even though we remain in good financial health, small local newspapers don’t have the resources to provide complete and timely coverage of everything our readers need to know. It’s the dailies to whom that remains a vital reason for existence.

We feel that, working together, large dailies and their small, community-based brethren can uphold the mutually held goal of an informed public.

If you subscribe to The Republic, we encourage you to continue. If you don’t, we hope you will consider or reconsider that decision.

We value the benefits that derive from an informed society; newspapers, both large and small, help keep it so.


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