Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: Downsizing Readers

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: Downsizing Readers

Article excerpt

Newspaper editors and publishers around the nation, reading about Keith Hempstead's stunt the other day, doubtless chuckled, and promptly put it out of mind. Hempstead is the North Carolina lawyer who is suing The News & Observer in Raleigh, claiming that its layoffs of 16 newsroom employees and decision to cut newshole constituted fraud and a breach of contract with subscribers like himself.

Even the reaction of the N&O's executive editor, John Drescher, was more bemused than annoyed by the lawsuit. He joked that maybe he'd turn around and sue Hempstead because the paper has been delivering far more value than the 36 cents a day it gets from his home delivery subscription.

Silly as his lawsuit might be, we think Hempstead is on to something. He is insisting that readers should have some standing when newspapers take an axe to the newsroom and newshole. In this recent and most sweeping wave of self-described "restructuring" and "reinvention" by newspapers, it's increasingly apparent that readers are an afterthought at best.

In our cover package this issue about the wrenching changes in editorial and business practices newspapers are imposing, some of the industry's top thinkers note that many managers these days don't even bother to pretend their new and diminished papers are designed with readers in mind.

They might as well be sending readers away with the boilerplate announcements that shoo away a reporter or circulation manager walking out the door with personal effects in a box: "Jane Subscriber has been a wonderfully loyal and productive reader for more than two decades. …

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