June 22, 2009
/ by David Coates
Big cities becoming one-newspaper towns
Twenty years ago, the idea of a one-newspaper metropolis seemed preposterous, but it is quickly becoming reality. The Houston Post closed in 1995, making the country’s fourth largest city a one-newspaper town with only the Houston Chronicle. Last year, the Cincinnati Post went under leaving the Cincinnati Enquirer on its own, and Denver became a one-newspaper town Feb. 27 when the Rocky Mountain News closed its doors. On March 17, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer printed its last edition and went totally digital, shrinking from 175 employees to approximately 20.
In Boston, there is The Boston Globe and the Boston Herald. But for months, there have been reports that The Globe’s owner, The New York Times Company, will close The Globe unless the newspaper’s union agrees to a variety of deep cuts. A contract vote is expected in July.
So who is next?
Many media experts view the Hearst-owned San Francisco Chronicle as extremely vulnerable. Things are not much better in Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Philadelphia and South Florida, where the financial struggles continue for one or both of the two major papers in those areas.
When the newspaper industry first began showing signs of trouble, joint operating agreements (JOAs) were set up as a way to help newspapers struggling in the same city. A JOA is an arrangement that enables two papers to share business services, including advertising and printing, in order to maintain two editorial voices in the area. The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News were part of a JOA, as were the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Seattle Times. It now looks like the early effort to save newspapers did little to help. There are similar agreements in Detroit and Salt Lake City, which doesn’t bode well.
Should the public relations business stand aside and see what papers come out on top? There is now one less paper to pitch in Denver. Does that mean editors and reporters at the Denver Post are more selective with their story ideas?
“This doesn’t mean we are going to lose 50 percent more news space. In fact the news hole these days is larger than it’s ever been with newscasts and online options,” said Gina Seamans, a senior counselor for JohnstonWells Public Relations firm in Denver and the president of the Public Relations Society of America, Colorado chapter. “We just need to think about things differently and make sure our pitches are stronger.
“The biggest point to make is that we still have to have a good story to pitch,” Seamans added. “There is always room for good stories. Maybe now our pitches need to be better to make sure our stories are relevant.”
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