Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Last Days of Newspapers

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Last Days of Newspapers

Article excerpt

Among the newspapers on my desk at work is one pinned to the corkboard of my cubicle with a headline that screams: "Extra, Extra, Read All About It! Father Of The Year!"

It was published by my then 6-year-old son for Father's Day and is loaded with information about me, some of it inaccurate and speculative.

"My Dad's favorite color is: Blue." True. "My Dad's favorite sport is: Soccer." Not true. "My Dad is good at: Working at the newspaper." That's a matter of opinion.

I've been reflecting on that newspaper since learning that Sept. 7 "may well go down as the day the American newspaper as we've known it moved out of intensive care and into the palliative wing on its way to the Great Beyond."

That was how The New York Times characterized the significance of the Newspaper Association of America, the trade group that has represented newspapers since 1887, dropping "Newspaper" from its name that day. The group now calls itself the News Media Alliance.

A lack of newspapers didn't prompt the change, although their dwindling number was an obvious factor. There are about 1,300 daily newspapers in the United States today, compared with 1,500 in 1996, according to the association.

What drove the association to change its name, according to the Times, was that the word "newspaper" has become "irrelevant" to many of the group's members, more and more of which are drawing wider and wider audiences online and fewer and fewer in print.

That dynamic comes with its own set of problems, or rather one big problem--making up revenue lost by declining print circulation. For various reasons, digital advertising is far less profitable than print.

You see where this is headed. Ad revenues finance the journalism newspapers produce. When those ad revenues fall, the result is cutbacks that inevitably lead to the newsroom. Fewer journalists means less news, and less news means...well, you get the point.

Fortunately, the Father's Day edition newspaper didn't have to worry about ads and audience. It's filled with three-quarter page crayon drawings of me at work, fishing with my son and playing in the backyard.

It's a delightful, quick read.

But news of the Newspaper Association of America dropping from its name the very word that defined it left me wondering how much longer those Father's Day editions would roll off the presses in first-grade classrooms everywhere. …

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