My heart sank again this week when I learned of the huge layoffs at the Salt Lake Tribune, once known as one of the nation’s better newspapers.
The paper released roughly a third of its newsroom staff. Many of those who were let go are among the best journalists in Utah.
Is any of this new? Sadly, no. It is happening across the country. Major metro papers are feeling the pain, along with mid-size papers and the mom/pop shops.
The culprit? The Internet!
The solution? It’s harder to identify.
Media outlets, namely newspapers, are continuing to struggle to find a business model that fits in this new Information Age … or maybe I should call it the “Disinformation Age.”
The Salt Lake Tribune is suffering from plummeting revenue as readers no longer subscribe the printed paper and advertisers look for other outlets to hawk their wares.
This sickens me.
I came of age professionally at a time when newspapers attracted young Americans who wanted to do good things. They wanted to make a difference in their communities. I admit to being smitten in the early 1970s by the reporting performed in Washington, D.C., although I had begun my college studies before Watergate and the fallout it produced.
There’s no intent to disparage the quality of the reporting being done now, today, as it regards what is happening in D.C. Newspapers are continuing to report and they’re continuing to fulfill their mission.
Since newspapers and other media are for-profit organizations, they need to make money to survive. If readers stop reading, and advertisers stop advertising, then it follows naturally that newspapers are going to struggle.
That story is unfolding in Salt Lake City and in communities across the land. It’s happening in Portland, where I grew up reading a newspaper that achieved the greatness to which its publisher and editors aspired. It’s damn sure happening in Beaumont and Amarillo, Texas, where I toiled for three decades; both cities’ newspapers are decimated shells of their former selves.
Newspaper owners, I am saddened to say, have yet to adapt to the changing business climate that has stripped them of their livelihood.
There will be more sad stories to tell.