Thursday, June 2, 2011

Morning Miracle

It's book review day.

I just finished reading Dave Kindred's "Morning Miracle."  It's an inside look at one of America's great newspapers, the Washington Post.

The Post is like most newspapers these days.  It's losing print circulation in an internet world.  It still hasn't found a way to make major money off the web site.

The Post has lost some of its best people through layoffs, buy outs, retirements, and simply finding other jobs.  Is it a good paper?  Yes.  Is it what it used to be?  No.

Kindred chronicles the Post's missteps over the years-- a lack of foresight, managers who saw change coming, but couldn't figure out what to do about it, resistance to doing things in a different way,  slow to adopt new technology...  The list goes on and on.

The chapters on how the Post covered the 2008 election are worth the purchase price.

Newspapers have it tough.  Why pay for yesterday's news on your front porch when you can get it for free, right now, on-line?  Classifieds were a big money maker.  The internet took that away, too.

There's currently a big fight here in Pennsylvania over a bill to end the practice of forcing local government to take out "legal" ads in newspapers.  The bill would allow governments to put the "legals" on their web sites.  It's a cash cow for the papers, and they want to keep the government subsidy.  Newspaper publishers warn of layoffs if they lose the legals.  But then again, governments are broke, and it wouldn't necessarily a bad idea to save some money by putting the legals on-line.  Some in Harrisburg are already caving.  Be a pal to the local publisher, get that endorsement before the next election.  That's the way it often works.

We, here in our area are lucky.  There are some outstanding newspaper reporters doing really good work.  It would be a shame if that went away.

Remember, the only thing constant in life is change.

And, more newspaper related topics before this one goes to bed for the day...  One is an update on something discussed here a few months ago.  The Erie Times-News has an old printing plant.  Rather than invest in a new one, the company is looking for an outside printer.  The selection was announced last week.  The Erie paper will be printed in Butler, PA-- a 90 minute drive on a good day.  So now, that thing filled with old news by the time it reaches your door step will have to be finished a little earlier

40 full and part timers will lose their jobs when the change takes effect in a few months.

The Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice will soon be printed in Waverly, about 40 minutes away from Public Square.  The publishers say the press in Waverly is faster than the one in Wilkes-Barre, so deadlines can be pushed back.  The paper will be fresher and more colorful.  But, factor in the drive from Waverly to Wilkes-Barre, and how much deadline time are you really saving?

A few more newspapers in our area will soon be charging for on-line content.  You'll get a dozen stories a month for free.  After that, the meter starts running.  On one hand, newspapers need that money to survive.  On the other, will people pay for something they used to get for free?  I fear some newspapers will soon learn there are other sources of information out there.

There will always be a place for quality journalism.  Our democracy depends on it.  The delivery method is still unknown.