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Newspaper, newspaper quite contrary…

It seems like every week another newspaper is cutting back in more ways than one. Whether it’s eliminating content, closing a bureau or letting staff go, it’s hard to escape these unsettling newspaper industry trends. So when a newspaper announces that it’s going against the grain, it’s only natural to do a double take. A handful of newspapers this year have already had us asking “is it opposite day?”

Times Herald-Record

It was noteworthy when the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., announced in January that it would resume printing stock listings, even though the newspaper’s removal of them was not intentional. “When our contract with the Associated Press expired last fall, the Local Media Group switched to AP Limited, a less expensive package that does not include stock listings,” business editor Michael Levensohn said in an email interview. “It wasn’t a specific decision to eliminate stocks. We looked for an alternative source for the listings, but were not able to find one by the end date of the AP contract.”

Some newspapers, because of budgetary restraints, have had to cut stock listings from their print pages, although they do run them online. The Denver Post removed the listings in its Tuesday through Saturday print editions last summer. Additionally, the News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., eliminated stocks on Sunday.

“One thing I learned from this experience is that many readers – primarily but not exclusively older ones, if the calls and emails are a fair indication – still place a high value on daily stocks listings,” Levensohn said. “The industry is focused on strategies for growing digital readership and revenue, as it should be, but I think it’s important not to lose sight of the needs of current customers. If you want to know what’s happening with the half-dozen stocks you own, there aren’t a lot of options. You can either go online or check the morning paper. For people who don’t regularly access the Internet – and there are still some out there – the daily newspaper is the only option.”

Times Union

While many newspapers have been forced to outsource their printing operations to nearby, and even rival, publications, the Times Union in Albany, N.Y., recently purchased new printing presses, which will go into use March 2013. “At the Times Union we pride ourselves as being an integral part of the Capital Region community and having the ability to place a new press into this community only strengthens our commitment to print and this community,” said Dan Couto, director of operations and facilities planning, in an email interview.

But many newspapers have not been so lucky. So far this year, several newspapers, including the New Haven Register in Connecticut, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette in Massachusetts, the Elkhart Truth in Indiana and the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway, Ark., have decided to shut down of their printing operations in favor of outsourcing, resulting in layoffs.

Daytona Beach News-Journal

In 2008, the Daytona Beach News-Journal closed its Flagler County, Fla. bureau. This past February, after more than three years, the newspaper re-opened a bureau in the county, providing a workspace for staff of the News-Journal and its smaller publication, the Flagler-Palm Coast News-Tribune.

To say that the opening of a new bureau or the revival of an old one is rare would be an understatement. Over the last few years, newspaper bureau closings have become a major trend in the industry. Approximately 69 newspaper bureaus were shut down in 2009, as were 45 in 2010 and 27 in 2011. This year, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram closed its Austin, Texas bureau and the Watertown Daily Times in New York announced they will cease their operations in Washington, D.C., at the end of March.

Frederick News-Post

In early February, the Frederick News-Post in Maryland returned to printing on Mondays, reverting back to a seven-day newspaper after almost three years. This change stands out as papers all over the country, like the Leesville Daily Leader in Louisiana and Bluffton Today in South Carolina, have had to decrease the number of days they publish.

For readers of the Frederick News-Post, getting rid of Monday’s publication just wasn’t an option. “Our readers made it very clear that they want their local paper delivered seven days a week,” publisher Geordie Wilson said in an email interview. “The lack of a Monday edition was, by a long stretch, our top reader complaint. Although our readers have been remarkably loyal to the paper through the recent economic difficulties, there is no doubt that eliminating the Monday edition has hurt subscription sales. Bringing it back, we hope, tangibly reaffirms our commitment to serving our readers and advertisers as the indispensable source for local news and information and strengthens their support.”

— Lauren Cohen

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