Last week’s announcement that San Diego’s daily snoozepapers were on the auction bloc should have come as no surprise. Frank Gormlie’s analysis in this space certainly covered the significant facts about the decline of the Union-Trib and a great deal of its history as a tool for reactionary causes. Now I have a news flash for the Copley papers’ ownership: Nobody wants to buy your paper. Even the mighty New York Times says it’s over.
The end is near for the print dinosaurs and the “good old days” of misleading the public by shaping news to suit the peccadilloes of a few “publishers” and their cronies. So, given this reality, what should the Editors of the UT do? Various journalism schools, marketing organizations, and newspaper organizations have done focus groups, studies and made proposals for change. The Associated Press even paid for an anthropological study to try to understand the phenomenon of declining interest in the conventional newsmedia. This decline is by no means limited to the print media; overall radio listenership is declining and the “talking heads” of network television have all but disappeared from the collective relevancy radar screen. More people know about gossip site TMZ than know the names of the evening TV news anchors.
Prior to the announcement that the U-T was for sale, the bean counters over at the paper made the usual moves: cutting back on coverage, buyouts, layoffs, raising the price of the paper and creating a really lame website. (Warning: NoDoze required) Since the For Sale sign was hung out last week, the paper has dropped its TV Guide and the ever-popular kids “Mini Page”, a weekly tabloid insert designed to lure younger readers into the newspaper reading habit. One wonders if the U-T editors have realized any significance out of the common reader complaint (“I miss the recipes”) about the axing of the kids pop-in supplement.
In the interest of recognizing the inevitable, I have a suggestion: Kill the paper now. The slash-and-burn tactics of the bean counters aren’t going to turn the paper around. It’s dead. And we really don’t need to watch it die slowly. We don’t need any more days or weeks of watching the paper’s staff do its best to “not suck”. It’s a waste.
There is a solution to this media dilemma and Step One is to abandon ship. The business model of newsprint as it currently exists is more to blame for its decline than the internet or cable tv. There is and will remain a demand for the content that has always driven readership: the elements of social currency (things that make you say “huh?” or “wow” or laugh or seem smarter) and even, just to be contrarian, advertising. This issue is, how do these things get delivered? And I’m not giving that away for free, although I might be willing to share my thoughts at a future time.
SEE UPDATE ABOUT POSSIBLE SALE OF U-T TO MCKINNON, KUSI OWNER. GO HERE.