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How to Save America's Newspapers

Owners and publishers are downsizing the news and pretending to improve quality. It needs to stop.
 
 
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It’s time to get back to basics in the newspaper publishing industry. As profits have fallen, so has the quality of reporting and editorial oversight when newsroom staffs are cut beyond the bone in order to maximize ownership return on investment. Have the owners and publishers in the newspaper business forgotten their true value proposition to their readership?

Executive management at the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call recently laid off more than two dozen persons from its newsroom, most of them veteran reporters drawing higher salaries. Management plans to cut 35–40 positions, according to a letter sent by publisher Timothy Johnson. The cuts are about one-fourth of the news staff. The remaining reporters are being told to write more stories under the same deadline constraints. Coverage of local meetings has been put into secondary importance; bureaus have been combined. The Morning Call is not alone.

About 85 percent of all dailies with more than 100,000 circulation, and about half of all dailies with circulations under 100,000, have cut the number of reporters and editors, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. During the first half of this year, newspapers laid off or froze more than 6,500 news positions. This was the biggest loss in three decades, according to the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

 
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