There’s a kind of hiss all over the world

By Greg Michael

What’s that loud hissing sound? It’s the leak of newspaper blimps as the dead-tree monopolies shrival at an increasing rate. They’ve been trying to stop their incredible losses in circulation and advertising by duplicating their static, inky newsprint models online. But where is the ad count? The smell of anxiety has now overtaken the smell of fresh newsprint rolls and the similar smell of money that the one-paper towns raked in for decades from stack upon stack of ads framed by a mix of wire copy and formula-written “features” from tired veterans along side young, bushy tailed “stringers.” (Stringers often don’t earn minimum wage). The rolls of newsprint used daily, used to stretch for miles. You won’t see that fact promoted by the objective, professional journalists. It’s also hard to find stories of how much the newspapers relied on the Classified regulated to the back section of the paper. Ever since Craigslist.org first created the major migration in classified advertising to the Web with its free online listings, newspapers have been struggling to come up with ways to preserve their hold on a high-profit revenue source. And they have yet to recognize the high readership that the Classifieds earned them.

The media financial analysts are watching the swift decline and reporting daily on the falling stocks, downgrades and shareholder battles. Now some of the veteran columnists are piping in. You know it is getting bad when they start to eat their own.

The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Newsday, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and scores of smaller papers have downsized their staffs in recent months. About 70 newsroom staffers and 100 non-newsroom employees are exiting the Post through the buyout door, according to the paper’s June 1 account.

Everywhere, newspapers are chucking stock tables, eliminating such once-venerable features as horse-racing coverage and their own editorial cartoonists, and consolidating or killing sections. For example, the New York Times just axed its Sunday television listings guide and has consolidated its Sunday regional sections into one. Much to their distress, newspapers are shedding profitable classified and display advertising. Evaporating circulation, shuttered foreign bureaus, and scaled-back Washington and state capital bureaus complete the miniaturization of the American daily,
wrote Jack Shafer of Slate.com (one of the reasons the dead tree monopolies are shinking).

The newspaper habit—which nearly every American had up until the late ‘80s—must be learned. That’s the answer! It’s a must for democracy! We shall help you learn to read the newspaper!

Maybe a newspaper lobby can help congress enact a law that subsidizes or forces adults to subscribe to their nearby big city liberal paper. Or will true democracy be let to run its course and the internet with legions citizen journalists become the medium of choice?

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