Chad Rubel

Will Your Hometown Newspaper Still Be Around in 6 Months?

You might miss Circuit City and Linens & Things, two casualties of the Bush Depression. Perhaps you worked there or bought your first TV set or popcorn popper there. But unless you had a personal investment in either of those places, you won't likely miss them 5 years from now.

But you will miss the Rocky Mountain News, printing its last edition last Friday. The Cincinnati Post is already gone. And if it happens, add the San Francisco Chronicle and the Philadelphia Daily News. That list might soon include the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Detroit News.

You might not live in those cities; maybe you've never even been to their Web sites. But you will miss them.

In 1978, when I was a child, the Chicago Daily News came to a close. It was sad watching a newspaper publish its last edition. But in 1978, we still had a healthy Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. Heck, the Sun-Times literally was a merger of the Chicago Sun and the Chicago Times.

Cities had pride based on whether they were a two-newspaper town. The number of two-newspaper cities is dwindling: Denver will only have one paper on Saturday; Philadelphia, Seattle, and Detroit are in serious danger of joining the group.

But San Francisco is different. While it technically has two papers, the Examiner is a joke. And Hearst is threatening to shut down the Chronicle, the only significant daily paper in one of the largest cities in the country. There is the Oakland Tribune and the San Jose News, but neither of them cover San Francisco with any significance.

Have we reached the point in the media world where two newspapers in a major city is a luxury? New York has 3½ dailies (Newsday doesn't cover the whole city); Chicago has two but both are very wounded; Los Angeles and San Francisco essentially only have one of significance. Boston amazingly has two relatively strong ones. Dallas-Ft. Worth and Minneapolis-St. Paul will likely keep two papers, only because of the two distinct cities in those markets.

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