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Shrinking newspaper content: Local and sometimes local fluff

Shrinking newspaper content

Shrinking newspaper content

Faced with ever shrinking staffs and fewer and fewer pages, newspapers are becoming niche publications.

Now, more than ever, their focus is close to home, which means for a newspaper pitch to succeed it had better take a local angle, even if the pitch is about a national issue.

It’s simple math really. There are fewer pages in the newspaper, so  there is less room for printed content.

Next Monday, the Chicago Tribune single-copy edition is going tabloid. During the last the several months, newspapers from one end of the country to the other reduced page counts. The causalities include the Tennessean, the Honolulu Advertiser, the Anchorage Daily News, the Spokesman Review, the Baltimore Sun, the Arizona Republic, the Indianapolis Star and the Seattle Times.

So many newspaper people are losing their jobs that firing and layoff counts are a daily staple at journalist visited blogs throughout the Internet.

With less space and fewer people to do the work, newspaper editors are emphasizing local content perhaps more than ever before. Editors at 259 newspapers were surveyed and 97 percent rated local news as “very essential”to their existence, according to a study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

An American newspaper now has “fewer pages than three years ago, the paper stock is thinner, and the stories are shorter. There is less foreign and national news, less space devoted to science, the arts, features and a range of specialized subjects,”Pew states.

Charlotte Hall, the editor of the Orlando Sentinel, told the Orlando Weekly that shrinking news holes may not be a bad thing. She said because readers have less time, the logical response is to go local with coverage.

“There is a glut of national news available. Our strength is the ability to cover local news in-depth,”she said.

But the Orlando Weekly compared Sentinel articles for a one-year period and found local stories were written with much softer angles than in years past. Regarding business news, once hard news business stories were migrating toward features about Sentinel advertisers.

The Columbia Journalism Review commented that based on the Pew survey and memos from editors across the country explaining the downsizing of their operations, “that niche isn’t just local, but also softer and more superficial.”

–Michael Blankenheim

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