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Final Edition
February 27, 2009 10:49 AM   Subscribe

Newspaper says goodbye via Vimeo. The Rocky Mountain News published its final edition today, after 149 years, 311 days in circulation.
posted by yiftach (82 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Falling like dominoes, aren't they? The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Rocky Mountain News, the San Francisco Chronicle probably next on the block .....
posted by blucevalo at 10:58 AM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


*hopes the Oregonian is next*
posted by dersins at 10:59 AM on February 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


.
posted by hifiparasol at 11:03 AM on February 27, 2009


Wait, has the Inky stopped publishing? I knew it was bankrupt, but I don't see anything approaching the RMN's level of disappearanceness.
posted by hifiparasol at 11:05 AM on February 27, 2009


Another terrible loss of domestic jobs. I never bought or read the paper because the 'above the fold' headline was always along the lines of "world comes to terrible end" "Never worse than today" "life sucks" or some other horrific drivil. "Self-fulfilling Prophecy Occurs" would have been a good final headline. Even the scroll today is nothing but negativity and gloom of bad happenings/tidings/stories. Yuck.
posted by buzzman at 11:06 AM on February 27, 2009


*hopes the Oregonian is next*
posted by dersins at 1:59 PM


But, but, that's the paper Henry Huggins used to deliver!
posted by marxchivist at 11:07 AM on February 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


No, the Inquirer is still very much in business.

Oh, and 'dot' for the Rocky Mountain News.
posted by fixedgear at 11:07 AM on February 27, 2009


They couldn't hold on for 7 more weeks to make it an even 150 years?
posted by Justinian at 11:08 AM on February 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


Apparently this was just announced on Wednesday or Thursday. It's interesting how we had a sort of gradual change from old technology to new, but this economic crisis is basically wiping out entire industries, in a matter of months it seems like.
posted by delmoi at 11:08 AM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Rocky Mountain News was Colorado's oldest newspaper and continuously-operated business. Its first issue was printed on April 23, 1859 by founder William N. Byers, who had hauled his printing press from Omaha, Nebraska by oxcart during the start of the Colorado Gold Rush. The first issue was printed only 20 minutes ahead of its rival, the Cherry Creek Pioneer, before Colorado was a state and Denver was a city.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:09 AM on February 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Thank you, flt, for filling in the (more inside) I didn't have the wherewithal to put together.
posted by yiftach at 11:18 AM on February 27, 2009


The newspaper industry was in trouble before the financial crisis. I think there are many reasons for it, but I don't think it's as easy as "let's blame the Internet" as everyone is trying to make it out to be.

I read that the employees found out today was going to be the last paper yesterday, although I'm sure they knew it was coming (you don't pull a 52-page commemorative wrap out of no where, although I'm guessing they were working on it for the 150th anniversary).

This is sad and a little scary to me, but mostly sad (I'm a newspaper employee currently "enjoying" a furlough day).
posted by darksong at 11:21 AM on February 27, 2009


Dersins,

I hope your mother is next.

Sincerest regards,
TheGoldenOne
posted by TheGoldenOne at 11:24 AM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hate to see any media fall. Well, it the exception of Clear Channel.

I find this sad sad news.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:27 AM on February 27, 2009


With the exception of Clear Channel.

Oh, and:

.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:28 AM on February 27, 2009


I learned to do crosswords in the Rocky Mountain News.

.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:33 AM on February 27, 2009


Dersins,
I hope your mother is next.
Sincerest regards,
TheGoldenOne


Classy. You must be a "journalist."
posted by dersins at 11:38 AM on February 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


What kind of person cheers the death of an industry? This is an industry that grew up side by side with the United States as a nation and was afforded special protections by the government from the beginning because it was deemed essential to the functioning of a democratic society. This is an industry that people have lived and died for- and we don't get paid much for our troubles.

Yeah, I'm a journalist. No, I don't work at a newspaper- but I have good friends at the Rocky and the Oregonian. Anyone willing to make the personal sacrifices that being a journalist requires is a good friend of mine.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 11:43 AM on February 27, 2009 [25 favorites]


The RMN was a part of my Denver/Capitol Hill coming-of-age upbringing. It was the first newspaper I had seen that you could comfortably read while enjoying a 99 cent breakfast at Fatz City or a breakfast burrito at the Pegasus on 13th Street. The RMN is so etched in my mind and associated with that time in my life. Sad, really.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:45 AM on February 27, 2009


-30-
posted by mudpuppie at 11:46 AM on February 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


Whoops, sorry about the Inquirer. I knew that they were in bankruptcy, but I shouldn't have implied that they had stopped publishing.
posted by blucevalo at 11:48 AM on February 27, 2009


My daily newspaper devotes several column inches, every day, to tripe nobody reads or uses. Ziggy. Ann Landers. Apartment 3-G. Horoscopes. Endless inches of stock quotes and sports box scores. Today's paper had a wire article (with accompanying photo and graphic) that I had read online two days earlier.

Let's not mourn the end of dipshit businesses that drowned in their own swill, silly union contracts and the don't-reinvest-our-annual-20-percent-profit-every-single-year thinking.

Let's face it, a lot of newspapers are like zombies -- you have to shoot them in the head to really kill them.

Did Denver lose a vital local voice? Pshaw. What exactly was the RMN doing that the Post wasn't? That blogs don't? What really made the RMN unique and interesting and made people want to read it?

As it turned out ... nothing.

Newspapers aren't going away, because there's nothing like reading a good paper that you can hold in your hands while eating a bowl of cereal. The form of newspapers will change (has changed) tremendously. And many, many bad newspapers will die.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:48 AM on February 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


What kind of person cheers the death of an industry?

The kind of person that wasn't rah-rah buggy whip makers represent! in the early 20th century.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:51 AM on February 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


I wonder what's being said these days in the classes of the J-school at my old alma-mater M.U.

Aside from "OH SHIT", that is.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:53 AM on February 27, 2009


What kind of person cheers the death of an industry? This is an industry that grew up side by side with the United States as a nation and was afforded special protections by the government from the beginning because it was deemed essential to the functioning of a democratic society.
I'm not sure how it's the death of an industry, just as the Great Buggy Wheel Manufacture Die Off of 1915 was not the end of the transportation industry, just a shift of it's nexus.

I don't think newspapers are going anywhere for awhile, this is a temporary downturn that will see good papers stronger than today in a decade. The sooner papers recognize their role is that of Newsweek and Time from a decade ago rather than the current news, they'll do better.
posted by Keith Talent at 11:53 AM on February 27, 2009


This is not a real great time to talk about hoping anyone's next. Anyone could be next, in any industry. If you haven't felt it in your own family or community yet with the same immediacy, just give it time. I wouldn't wish joblessness on my worst enemy right now.

I'm so sorry for the Rocky Mountain News, its staff, and all of us it served -- not just Denver, but the national wire. That was a great paper and we need great papers right now because besides our vote, they are the only real enfranchisement we have.
posted by melissa may at 12:00 PM on February 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Who Killed the Rocky?. (via Waxy)
posted by howling fantods at 12:13 PM on February 27, 2009


This is an industry that grew up side by side with the United States as a nation and was afforded special protections by the government from the beginning because it was deemed essential to the functioning of a democratic society. This is an industry that people have lived and died for- and we don't get paid much for our troubles.

All these points apply to slavery too
posted by jtron at 12:13 PM on February 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


The industry I work in is having a lot of problems, too. I could be laid off at any moment. I'm not cheering or wishing for the loss of jobs.

I am, however, wishing for the death of a terrible, useless "news" paper (the Oregonian) that, as Cool Papa Bell put it, does things like devoting "several column inches, every day, to tripe nobody reads or uses," and like reprinting days-old wire service articles as front page, above-the-fold news. If that's your business model, your business deserves to fail.
posted by dersins at 12:16 PM on February 27, 2009


@ jtron: Really? You're comparing newspapers to slavery? WTF?
posted by dellsolace at 12:21 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


.
posted by lester at 12:21 PM on February 27, 2009


At least I don't have to read Mike Rosen any more. Plus, the Rocky had better comics than the Denver Post...but they are all moving to the Post, along with liberal Rocky columnist Mike Littwin. Denver is not a big city. I'm surprised we were able to keep two newspapers for so long.

And as far as newspapers go: get off my lawn if you plan to pry my morning paper from my cold Boomer hand. Old habits die hard. I like the paper. I love the Internet.
posted by kozad at 12:35 PM on February 27, 2009


The difference between any of these other industries and newspapers is mostly just that Liberty isn't founded on the concept of a free buggy. If you we lose the -paper, make sure you replace the news, because otherwise we'll all be looking into an empty -filter.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:36 PM on February 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why don't they just go online?
posted by plexi at 12:37 PM on February 27, 2009


Here's a text-based Venn diagram:

Slavery: people treated as animals, cheap goods thanks to near-free labor

Slavery + News papers: grew up side by side with the United States, afforded special protection by govt, deemed essential to functioning democracy, people lived and died for this

News papers: people paid for their work, spreading information to the masses every day or so
posted by filthy light thief at 12:37 PM on February 27, 2009


I am, however, wishing for the death of a terrible, useless "news" paper (the Oregonian) that, as Cool Papa Bell put it, does things like devoting "several column inches, every day, to tripe nobody reads or uses," and like reprinting days-old wire service articles as front page, above-the-fold news. If that's your business model, your business deserves to fail.

Possibly your personal cheerleading-for-newspaper-deaths is restricted only to one title, for highly specific reasons, in which case you're going to catch flak for your initial comment that you probably don't deserve. The problem is that it comes amid near-daily threads on this topic on Metafilter that are littered with brainless expressions of adolescent, ill-thought-through glee at the crumbling of the newspaper industry, for which their authors should be thoroughly ashamed.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:38 PM on February 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Local papers cater to the locality, not necessarily one section of reader. Some people (still) rely on papers for their "days-old" news because this could be the most timely news they get. That tripe nobody reads might actually have an audience, or might just be used to grab your eye so you notice the next article, or maybe see an ad that paid for the articles to be written and paper to be printed. Physical publications have limitations, and news papers are designed with that in mind.

Everything is not for you.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:45 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why don't they just go online?

Because it won't pay for original reporting.
posted by WPW at 12:48 PM on February 27, 2009


Local papers cater to the locality, not necessarily one section of reader.

Rapidly declining circulations and revenues would appear to indicate that they are doing a piss-poor job of catering to much of anybody.
posted by dersins at 12:50 PM on February 27, 2009


Never had a chance to read the Rocky Mountain News, but I mourn their passing. We need all the newspapers we can get these days, even if the aren't unique voices, because every functioning paper helps keep the medium alive until it can change into something better.

Newspapers aren't going away, because there's nothing like reading a good paper that you can hold in your hands while eating a bowl of cereal. The form of newspapers will change (has changed) tremendously. And many, many bad newspapers will die.

I just hope that many good newspapers are born on the other side of this near-extinction event. There's just no other medium with the same kind of broad based appeal and information rich focus. You can get in-depth news on the net, but it's all fragmented and probably isn't the same information that your friends and neighbors are getting. When you watch TV news you're getting the same information as millions of other people, but it's all trivial soundbites. Newspapers are the best of both worlds.

I don't think newspapers are going anywhere for awhile, this is a temporary downturn that will see good papers stronger than today in a decade. The sooner papers recognize their role is that of Newsweek and Time from a decade ago rather than the current news, they'll do better.

I think they should be going the opposite way from Time and Newsweek. The local paper should be just that - local. Something a bit like Metafilter, crafted with care by unique individuals and slanted to appeal exclusively to your town. No wire service articles if possible, and no house style. A small, stable roster of reporters (maybe with their photos on page two), that you want to read because you enjoy their work. And their beat is the traffic accidents, spellings bees, local politics and whatnot that makes up life in your town, told in the kind of detail that television can never touch and blogs can't afford. A hand crafted luxury product, in other words, rather than something mass produced and cheap.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:50 PM on February 27, 2009


This is heartbreaking, and honestly, dersins? Your comments don't help. There are those of us on MetaFilter who are closer to all this than we'd like -- the news business has been struggling for several years now, and though we can all say, "But what if they just did X, Y and Z?" -- it's not changing what has happened, and what is happening.

It's happening to people, many of whom are brilliant photographers, reporters and editors. And every time another newspaper folds, or another news outlet announces massive layoffs, it's catastrophic for a lot of people.

Thanks for the links, yiftach. That was an extremely well-executed video.
posted by brina at 12:56 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


your business deserves to fail

Also: we need to drop this whole notion from discussion of the future of professional news reporting. The newspaper industry has been disastrously badly managed, and many journalists as well as managers have grown lazy. But it is self-evident to anyone who really looks, except perhaps in the fantasies of a few zealots, that the blogosphere is as yet not remotely in a position to subsitute for the reporting function of which newspapers are capable when not badly managed and lazily run.

So, you have to ask: if the food industry had been so badly managed that people couldn't get food anymore, would you throw up your hands and say "serves them right, their business model deserved to fail!"?

You would not.

Of course, you may believe that people just don't need access to good news reporting like they need access to food. In which case come clean about it, and don't pretend to believe in a healthy democracy.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:58 PM on February 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


At our paper, if we screw up the crossword puzzle, we never hear the end of it. Same with the advice column we run (we left it out as an experiment once, just to see if people would miss it. And they did).

I know when I worked on the night copy desk, sometimes we had a choice between a two-day old story or well, no story at all. We had to put something in the big empty space. With a lack of reporters due to staff cuts and an ever-shrinking pool of stories from the Associated Press, sometimes you don't have a lot to work with.

And if you want to dislike journalists, feel free, but remember newspapers employ more than just them. There are also press operators and delivery drivers and such that will be looking for work.
posted by darksong at 1:01 PM on February 27, 2009


I always thought the RMN web site was surprisingly well designed for a newspaper: good organization, minimal ads, lots of photos, big text, Web 2.0 stuff that actually worked correctly, etc. That's why I got in the habit of reading it instead of the Denver Post (especially when the Post web site started crashing Firefox on my computer at work). The Denver Post web site isn't all that bad, I'll admit, and it doesn't crash my browser any more, but I'm going to miss the RMN nonetheless.

Of course, now I feel a little sheepish for turning away the RMN representative who came by a couple weeks ago offering free subscriptions (apparently, it's included in my lease or something) because "I always read it online" and didn't want a dead tree showing up on my doorstep every morning.
posted by jal0021 at 1:06 PM on February 27, 2009


I'm going to miss newspapers, but they are out-moded. This doesn't make the sight of a whole industry collapsing any better, however. In many ways once most regional newspapers fail, we will be worse off. While many argue that blogs will fill this roll, I have my doubts. Most blogs are either political echo chambers or endless fark-styled photoshop contests. For the short term there will be a news vacuum, or at least a lot of noise where there used to be signal.

What I'm hoping for is more small papers, streamlined and issue oriented papers. Papers that don't break news as much as they analyze news while trying to stay free of bias.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:07 PM on February 27, 2009


The video is good by the way, a little hagiographic, but that's understandable since it's homemade. Good points are made therein, especially after about 15 mins in where the closure becomes final.

Woman: "I was talking to miners last week and they all knew about the closing of the News...[pause]...Hmm, that story's never going to run now."
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:07 PM on February 27, 2009


y daily newspaper devotes several column inches, every day, to tripe nobody reads or uses. Ziggy. Ann Landers. Apartment 3-G. Horoscopes. Endless inches of stock quotes and sports box scores. Today's paper had a wire article (with accompanying photo and graphic) that I had read online two days earlier.

I don't read them does not equal nobody reads them. Yes, lots of people get their stock quotes and box scores via the web, but to say "everyone" does is a gross misrepresentation of America. Around 18 percent - or almost one-fifth - of American households have no Internet access of any kind.

That's not to mention the "memory hole" problem. The one big - BIG - thing print media has going for it is that it has a certain permanence that the web has not yet achieved. I can't go to the library, for example, and browse old websites - even news sites - in the same way I can browse old newspapers. Even where I can access old websites, its often only a quick glimpse and not a complete picture. This may, of course, improve, but as right now if five years from now I want to read the wire article you read, I may very well need to go down to my local library and find a print copy to do it.
posted by anastasiav at 1:09 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


What is it with j-school graduates being so convinced that they're in a business other than selling ad space? Most of you are working for corporations who sell publicity to other corporations. The Rocky Mountain News is / was owned by Scripps. The Oregonian is owned by Advance. These aren't local mom & pop businesses-- they're part of huge, profit-driven media conglomerates who owe their allegiance to their advertisers, not their readers. The free press hasn't been free for decades. Get over yourselves already.
posted by dersins at 1:10 PM on February 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh, almost forgot. Slavery = newspapers? You can draw me Venn diagrams or whatever, but that doesn't make the comparison any less idiotic.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:10 PM on February 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


dersins: These aren't local mom & pop businesses-- they're part of huge, profit-driven media conglomerates who owe their allegiance to their advertisers, not their readers.

Spectacularly irrelevant. All sorts of industries (food, utilities, banks, airlines... where do you stop?) are loyal first of all to their shareholders yet provide a social benefit one might deem essential to any properly functioning modern society.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:20 PM on February 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


who had hauled his printing press from Omaha, Nebraska by oxcart during the start of the Colorado Gold Rush

While I like to rag on the free marketeer boosterboys here, props to an O.G. big-C Capitalist here.

that doesn't make the comparison any less idiotic.

it wasn't a comparison of the institutions, it was an demonstration of the faulty premise of the argument that something that's been around for a while and had the blessing of the US gov is necessarily a good and/or worthy of our sympathy because of that.

I believe the fallacies involved were #7 and #15 from this menu.
posted by troy at 1:25 PM on February 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


But Dersins, if the Oregonian didn't exist, then Tony Green wouldn't have been crime reporter and the Tony Green Orchestra wouldn't have so many wonderful true crime songs. It's all connected.
posted by snofoam at 1:30 PM on February 27, 2009


In other news about news, Newsday eyes end to free Web content.

Talk about closing the barn door after the horses have gotten out.
posted by SteveInMaine at 1:30 PM on February 27, 2009


As a child, I had to carry the Rocky Mountain News uphill in the snow every day.

.
posted by the Real Dan at 1:31 PM on February 27, 2009


Seattle PI will be joining them soon.
posted by maxwelton at 1:32 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


My thoughts on this are very mixed. Working as I do for a local, small-town newspaper, I see the value in what we produce every day. It's not information that anyone will be able to get anywhere else if there isn't some sort of local paper. Are you telling me bloggers are going to go to the local school board meetings, the town council meetings, or to local criminal trials, or whetever else is happening in town? Sure, these organizations could maintain their own blogs or records of the events, but then they'd have 100% control of the content, and would be able to spin their version of the event to their heart's content.

And this is important stuff! The decisions of the local school board have a huge influence on people, even if they don't have kids. A big chunk of our taxes, after all, are determined by these people. The same goes for what the city or tiny podunk municipality or borough is doing.

On the other hand, we are owned by a large corporation, and creating revenue (or reducing expence) is the driving force behind virtually everything we do. Is the advertising-based business model for the newspaper (or any other media) industry problematic? Most definitely. I don't know what the alternative would be, other than ownership by some sort of independently wealthy media baron. Could a community-owned newspaper function properly? How would it investigate its own people? Government sponsorship brings all sorts of other pitfalls.

This video, though, made me sad. It's shocking how suddenly the whole thing fell apart. I sure hope it doesn't happen here.
posted by dellsolace at 1:33 PM on February 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


We need all the newspapers we can get these days, even if the aren't unique voices, because every functioning paper helps keep the medium alive until it can change into something better.

This seems to be the core of a perspective I don't understand. It seems to me the primary obstacle to replacing newspapers with something better is newspapers. We're not going to better understand and improve how news gathering happens outside of newspapers by putting it off until the last possible moment (e.g. the middle of a recession). Sure, change is painful, but accepting it makes it less painful; avoiding change only makes it worse.

It's shocking how suddenly the whole thing fell apart. I sure hope it doesn't happen here.

The only way to avoid that is by helping it fall apart more slowly. It's clearly going to fall apart either way.
posted by scottreynen at 1:43 PM on February 27, 2009


That's not to mention the "memory hole" problem. The one big - BIG - thing print media has going for it is that it has a certain permanence that the web has not yet achieved. I can't go to the library, for example, and browse old websites - even news sites - in the same way I can browse old newspapers. Even where I can access old websites, its often only a quick glimpse and not a complete picture. This may, of course, improve, but as right now if five years from now I want to read the wire article you read, I may very well need to go down to my local library and find a print copy to do it.

That's a really good point. The physical newspaper is a record that you can read today, tomorrow, or even a year from now if it's stored properly. It won't disappear in a server crash, or surreptitiously change embarassing details when no one's looking. Online newspapers are the opposite of permanent.

Could a community-owned newspaper function properly? How would it investigate its own people?

That's an interesting idea! Maybe it could be some kind of communal arrangement where a year's subscription get's you a (time limited) share in the company? Or something along those lines?
posted by Kevin Street at 1:43 PM on February 27, 2009


On preview, this should have been up thread a bit, no derail intended.

It's sad to see the Rocky go, but their journalism was lame. The contemporary commitment to "balance" generates absurd copy that says nothing. It's all scandal, blood, and the latest addition to the zoo. I gave up reading either local paper years ago because it was a simple waste of time. Both local papers are bloated money pits that do very little well enough to justify their existence. Perhaps a little existential terror will generate some innovation, and The Post will be able figure out how to be relevant in the 21st Century.

In contrast, the Denver neighborhood monthly, "Life on Capitol Hill", covering issues related to local business and politics, is really more useful, particularly in regard to community development. Their writing is excellent and they do real, old time reporting. "Westword", a weekly, does an entertaining job of investigative journalism, though it's yellowish, sensational and hit or miss. Both of these lightweight organizations are still in business.

Journalism is a crucial component of a democratic society, it's just that corporate owned media conglomerates are terrible providers.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 1:51 PM on February 27, 2009


That's a really good point. The physical newspaper is a record that you can read today, tomorrow, or even a year from now if it's stored properly.

You can also wrap fish with it, start your cowboy charcoal, or stuff it down the front of your jersey for a chilly mountain descent.
posted by fixedgear at 2:04 PM on February 27, 2009


That's not to mention the "memory hole" problem.

If you think stuff disappearing is worrying enough, how about stories changing? Being retroactively edited ... at first to tidy up typos here and there, then a few times court-ordered as the result of libel judgements, and the door is ajar to something that makes Winston Smith's memory hole and speakwrite look like steampunk. The"visible mending" (crossing-out to make corrections) that the likes of Cory D and Jeff J use is a kind of forward-projected anxiety about this - a doomed attempt to institue an unworkable "best practice" before the horse has bolted.

Print is essential to a healthy mix of media.
posted by WPW at 2:07 PM on February 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's a really good point. The physical newspaper is a record that you can read today, tomorrow, or even a year from now if it's stored properly.

I notice you stopped "a year from now" which was probably smart. Since the end of the 19th century newspaper has been printed on cheapo acid-rich paper which degrades rapidly. It's about as non-permanent as you get. Properly archived digital records will last much longer than newspaper.

Now, acid-free paper will last a very long time and is probably the best method for preserving mass amounts of something, but newspaper is about as far from acid-free as it comes.

Well, except for British hardcovers. For some reason the damn Brits use special super-degradable ultra high acid content paper. My British hardcovers start yellowing a year after I get them. Maybe it's time to step boldly forward into the 1980s and use acid neutral paper, United Kingdom!
posted by Justinian at 2:30 PM on February 27, 2009


Apologies for missing your comment until now, scottreynen.

This seems to be the core of a perspective I don't understand. It seems to me the primary obstacle to replacing newspapers with something better is newspapers. We're not going to better understand and improve how news gathering happens outside of newspapers by putting it off until the last possible moment (e.g. the middle of a recession). Sure, change is painful, but accepting it makes it less painful; avoiding change only makes it worse.

But it's much easier to change something that already exists than to build a thing up from nothing. Unlike say, blogs, it takes a significant investment to start up a newspaper, so we're not going to see entrepreneurs in every city like William N. Byers, spontaneously printing new papers and trying out new models. The smart money is never going to be in print, alas, and a single failure might be enough to discourage anyone from entering that town or city's market for a long time.

It's easier (or at least slightly more feasible) to take existing papers, with their established readerships, and use them as test beds to find a new, sucessful model. That's why we need as many newspapers as possible now. Every loss makes it a little less likely the industry will reach the other side and find stability again.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:51 PM on February 27, 2009


The problem with newspaper journalism is that their revenue stream (Ads, Classified, Subscriptions) is drying up. Places like Craigslist have captured a good percentage of the classified ads, and places like monster and company have captured an increasing percentage of the Help Wanted style ads. Even before the downturn in the economy, newspapers had to compete with other media in terms of garnering advertising dollars. Further internet advertising allows advertisers to target specific audiences to a far greater degree than print journalism. In addition fewer and fewer people rely on a newspaper to get their news. I don't know that many people that get the paper everyday anymore and only a handful that read it cover to cover. Combine that with rapacious corporations demanding a steady return on profits to fuel mergers and acquisitions and you've got a recipe for disaster.

Newspapers need to focus on what they do well and dump the shit that no longer works well in the format. In my opinion that means focusing on state and local issues that typically receive little coverage on the television. Focus on investigative journalism. Focus on a strong opinions page that covers a wide variety of perspectives (National and Local, Liberal and Conservative) not just another outlet for a boring George Will opinion piece. Continue to provide a strong sports section because that's what a huge percentage of the audience buy the newspaper for.

Honestly I think most newspapers need to scale back the international and national coverage. The cable news networks can scoop just about any story and frankly these desks appear to cost a huge amount to staff. Either share costs with other newspapers or force the wire services to provide more robust reporting at their level. Reduce the amount of business puff pieces that show up in paper. If people are really serious about business then they will likely pick up one of the dedicated financial papers.

The community sponsored financial model might work but I'm not sure that we can suddenly move to a NPR: the newspaper overnight. In the meantime I do think things can be done to prevent the institution from completely dying off. However it might mean that existing, heavily leveraged newspapers need to fail and leaner, meaner new papers need to form in their place.
posted by vuron at 3:10 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Damn, that's a sad story. Thanks for posting the video. Never read the RMN, but it sounds like a good paper, and we need good papers.

And this?
All these points apply to slavery too
What a stupid, mindless, offensive comment. Next time you need to shit, use the bathroom.
posted by languagehat at 3:17 PM on February 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


What filthy light thief and troy said - I was trying (and failing, apparently) to make a point about what TheGoldenOne had said. The positive functions of newspapers - communication, community-building, investigative journalism - are moving to non-newspaper formats. I understand that for a lot of people it'll be sad to see the papers go, but the comparison upthread to buggy whips is apt. It doesn't make sense to fetishize old forms when they no longer are the best way of achieving their aims; are people sad to not be able to get jobs as telegraph operators anymore?
posted by jtron at 3:31 PM on February 27, 2009


Dunno if it'll do any good now that the battle lines are drawn herein, but I'm a journalist so I figured I'd kick in my own little op-ed.

I can't speak directly to the quality of the endgame version of the Rocky Mountain News (though I did live in Denver for two years as a kid and it was the first tabloid style paper I'd ever seen and I remember they had a radio jingle that went "Rocky Mountain News gets Denver up / We are the news that gets Denver up . . ."). But while I sympathize with those in this thread who face unemployment or their friends' unemployment and agree that most newspapers still at least partially perform a function that at present is performed nowhere else, dersins has a point. The business model's flawed. It's a mess. And the product in most markets has been a rapidly degrading piece of shit clinging desperately to its own institutional pride of place to avoid the plunge into the twirling vortex below for as long as I've been a journalist.

My local equivalent is the Calgary Herald - a midsize-market extension of a national corporate media conglomerate (part of Conrad Black's old empire now owned by Winnipeg's spectacularly clueless CanWest), a paper with 100-plus years of history, a present-day skeleton staff and piles of wire copy padding that covers topics and events better reported and written up with infinitely superior craft elsewhere. The paper union-busted most of its remaining decent reporters out of the newsroom in the late '90s, and it has been little more than a placeholder ever since.

I was a food columnist for the Herald's Friday supplement for a year or so, and the day I left that gig I felt profound relief because it meant I could cancel my subscription and never again read with any regularity the daily insult to my intelligence that the Herald had become.

I could go on and on about what the many kinds of travesty perpetrated by my local upmarket broadsheet daily, and my limited experience while traveling on assignments through the US tells me the midsize-market US dailies are by and large the same sort of stinking piles built on the same outmoded, irrelevant, poorly executed model. Sure, they're the only daily sending a reporter down to City Hall with any regularity, but the coverage tended to be so clueless people would've been better off not having that misinformed, heavily spun little nugget of random info cluttering their minds. You could package up a day's worth of local press releases with no discernible decline in quality, and at least then a noncorporate entity might stand a chance in hell of getting equal time.

The business editor has made it a point of pride to completely miss the biggest stories on his beat and leave the real reporting to journalists parachuted in by real news organizations from out of town; the only decent journalist I knew on the daily beat at the Herald, one of the most hardcore dyed-in-the-wool old-school reporters I've known, was so completely disillusioned by working on this clown's business desk he quit and went back to school to study literary theory.

Last I checked, the Herald's entertainment reporters were still filing "reviews" of concerts that weren't over yet to get them to press for the next morning's hot sheet. What a scoop! Even their hockey coverage is phoned-in junk no more insightful for its handful of seats in the press box than the average call-in show's armchair coaching staff.

I really could go on and on. There would be small personal tragedies in the collapse of the Herald, just as you hate to see fishermen out of work now that the cod are all gone. But there's little of the business they work in worth saving. It really has dug its own grave.

And on preview, Kevin Street, I hear what you're saying, but if the two dailies I know well are any indication, these are not organizations with the management talent and wherewithal to transform themselves. They've had more than a decade with consultant after consultant telling them their model's doomed and digital media's the future and all the rest, and very few of them listened, almost none fundamentally re-evaluated their priorities, and the one I still nominally write for (though its freelance budget was frozen indefinitely last month) remains openly hostile to its own salvation.
posted by gompa at 3:32 PM on February 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Final Salute, a Rocky Mountain News special report by Jim Sheeler and Todd Heisler (Nov 2005), won two Pulitzers.
posted by honest knave at 3:34 PM on February 27, 2009


Since the end of the 19th century newspaper has been printed on cheapo acid-rich paper which degrades rapidly. It's about as non-permanent as you get. Properly archived digital records will last much longer than newspaper.

This is always overstated. I keep extensive files of press clippings. Some of them are more than 30 years old. They've coloured, but they're only a touch more fragile. I have a Penguin Special, on wartime, paper-rationed crapola stock, from 1945 (it's a 2nd edn of John Hersey's Hiroshima) and it is fragile but readable. Properly archived, they can last effectively forever.

But this whole argument is irrelevant as copies can be made, in other media. This isn't an either-or argument - I think everyone here likes the internet. But we want print to stay alive as well. And more importantly, journalism has to stay alive, and at present the internet has not provided a business model that can keep it viable.
posted by WPW at 3:42 PM on February 27, 2009



I can't stand The News-Press (Fort Myers).
But do I wish them failure?
NO. I just wish they would stop pandering to their ultra conservative right wing religionist base and try to educate them to the possibility that the earth may not really be flat and only 6,000 years old.
posted by notreally at 4:34 PM on February 27, 2009


I don't read them does not equal nobody reads them. Yes, lots of people get their stock quotes and box scores via the web, but to say "everyone" does is a gross misrepresentation of America.

Anecdotally, having worked at several papers many years ago, I can vouch for the fact that several daily column inches were regularly devoted to shutting up cranks. "We can't kill Feature X -- that one old lady will call again." Systemic market research is sorely, sorely lacking at a great many papers.

Let's say you live on the West Coast. You wake up at 7 a.m. You're interested in the stock market performance of Company X on the NYSE. Do you want to go to the newspaper and read yesterday's results? Keep in mind that while you're doing this, a) overnight trading is complete, b) the market has already been open for 30 minutes, and c) international markets are already closed.

Instead of entire pages of utterly useless stock quotes, newspapers would be giving their readers better overall service if they just printed, every day in giant letters, "BY THE TIME YOU READ ANYTHING HERE, IT'S ALREADY TOO LATE. CALL YOUR STOCKBROKER OR GO ONLINE."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:02 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Properly archived, they can last effectively forever.

"Properly archived" when speaking of non acid-neutral paper includes the incredibly laborious process of de-acification of each individual page. And even that's not perfect.

After a century it'll fall apart if you breathe on it.
posted by Justinian at 5:31 PM on February 27, 2009


60 years in one format, and still readable, is better than any computer-data storage method yet devised (apart from maybe punchcards), and for the price of a wartime paperback. But as I said, that's beside the point - digital is a backup to paper as paper is a backup to digital. It's not an either-or argument; they complement each other. I'm not arguing that print is better than digital; just that print deserves to survive and thrive.
posted by WPW at 6:02 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anyone who hopes their local paper fails is either purposely ignorant, or just stupid. Have fun while your politicians rape goats on the senate floor.
posted by IvoShandor at 7:16 PM on February 27, 2009


I guess to further clarify: blogs aren't going to save you. Where do you think most of them get their news.

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by IvoShandor at 7:17 PM on February 27, 2009


it's going to be interesting to see what happens when the first sizable town suddenly finds itself without a local newspaper

here's the problem - the internet does not do local well - as someone has already pointed out, it doesn't go to the city commission meetings or the school board meetings - it doesn't tell you what your local police department is doing in the community - nor does it tell you where cherries are on sale this week, either

yeah, there will be plenty of people blogging about iraq and healthcare and this and that and the other national thing

who's going to blog about the local school district changing school boundaries?

it's amazing to me that people here generally loathe the ignorance of the american people - and yet some of you are cheering the one and only thing that keeps them from utter ignorance of what is going on around them

it's almost as if you'd rather they stay ignorant so you'll have someone to feel superior to
posted by pyramid termite at 9:00 PM on February 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


Anyone who hopes their local paper fails is either purposely ignorant, or just stupid. Have fun while your politicians rape goats on the senate floor.

Local broadsheet headline: "Tories introduce 'lucrative' goat crossbreeding program"
(sidebar teaser: "Inside: A heroic stand against cloven-footed leftist inflitration (editorial, p. A28)"

Local tabloid headline: "Killer goats invade legislature!"
(bottom-of-page banner: "Do hooved mammals foretell endtimes? And how much could you make as their pimp? Your 8-page illustrated guide to making big $ from the apocalypse starts on p. 24.")

Local free commuter daily headline: "Rihanna's hot new look! (Hint: Black eyes are the new black!)"
(Headline in 10-pt. font over 4-inch sidebar story: "Legislature gets its goat on")

But hey, maybe I'm just cynical. Maybe this kind of eternal fourth-estate vigilance really is the only thing between me and wanton goat sex on the legislature floor.
posted by gompa at 9:22 PM on February 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Goodbye, Colorado

[scrolls to end]

Subscribe to the Rocky Mountain News
posted by zippy at 10:51 PM on February 27, 2009


it's going to be interesting to see what happens when the first sizable town suddenly finds itself without a local newspaper

Keep your eyes on Seattle, then. The P-I will likely be gone next month, and all the scuttlebutt has the Times not lasting out the year. (Of course, there are the Stranger and the Weekly, but I think you meant daily papers.)

here's the problem - the internet does not do local well - as someone has already pointed out, it doesn't go to the city commission meetings or the school board meetings - it doesn't tell you what your local police department is doing in the community - nor does it tell you where cherries are on sale this week, either

Well, I would disagree. Again, keep your eyes on Seattle. Have you seen the West Seattle Blog? The WSB has been eating the Times and P-I for lunch in the local news category for quite a while now. The local newspapers can do local well -- I'd argue that it might be their only chance for survival. But the problem is that they have let their local coverage atrophy over the years.

There are now a bunch of neighborhood blogs in Seattle, and though the quality varies, they are filling the perceived gap in local coverage relatively well. The main problem at the moment is the resource problem. The WSB makes money but I believe most of the other neighborhood blogs here do not, and in the long run, this makes it difficult for the local blogs to survive. You do need resources to do a lot of long-form investigative journalism.
posted by litlnemo at 1:52 PM on March 1, 2009


this stuff just makes me sad. I'm a Seattleite who is really
going to miss the print media. Yes, I read and love the neighborhood
blogs...but.
posted by dorgla at 6:47 PM on March 1, 2009


Believe me, dorgia, I'm with you there. It's breaking my heart, watching these newspapers die.
posted by litlnemo at 4:14 AM on March 2, 2009




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