Eric Ward" />
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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Newspapers still struggling to survive

Increased prices and online news are two causes of an effect journalists may not be thrilled to report: the decline of newspaper circulation in the U.S.

Reported average weekday sales of 400 daily newspapers from April to September 2009 have declined 10.6 percent, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

But newspapers are struggling with money more than readership.

‘U.S. daily newspapers are not experiencing an audience problem, they are experiencing a revenue problem,’ John Murray of the Newspaper Association of America said.

The recent recession in the U.S. economy is a major factor in daily newspapers’ downturn. The loss of classified advertising and getting readers to pay for content are the two main problems, Samuel Freedman, professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, said.

‘It’s depressing news,’ Michael Berryhill, a UH journalism professor, said. ‘We’re in the middle of a big advertising recession. We’re in the middle of an economic recession.’

Dependent on advertising dollars, newspapers are directly affected by the fall of other industries.

‘Look at the car business. Look at the real estate business. Those are two of the biggest advertisers in newspapers, ‘ Berryhill said.

Classified advertisings have been replaced with free Web sites such as Craigslist. As a resuly, newspapers across the U.S. have been forced into selling fewer newspapers for higher prices, Murray said.

‘Print is in a really difficult situation,’ Freedman said.

The decline of newspaper circulation has caused newspapers to lay off staff.

The Chronicle’s editorial staff consisted of about 350 workers during the 1990s. Today,’ the publication has an editorial’ staff of 200, Berryhill said. Hundreds’ of other Chronicle employees were a part of a massive layoff this spring, including’ the reporters who covered the UH and Rice athletics beats.

‘The product is smaller; there are fewer pages, (and) fewer stories,’ Berryhill said. ‘It’s like a doctor looking at your vital signs ‘hellip; print looks pretty sick right now.’

An obvious solution for newspapers would be to convert to the Web, but that’s where newspapers are being exploited.

‘Why should Yahoo News draw eyeballs to their sites and get advertising to their sites by posting articles written by the New York Times, L.A. Times or whoever and are paying nothing?’ Freedman said.

About 15 percent of a newspaper’s revenue comes from its online advertising, Murray said.

Berryhill advised student journalists to be technically savvy.

‘Develop all the computer skills you can get,’ Berryhill said. ‘The brightest computer minds aren’t in the newspaper rooms.’

Freedman said it was important for journalists to have versatile skill sets, including knowledge of how to upload slide shows, edit audio and video, and how to be a decent photographer.

‘Critical thinking and being able to write concisely and accurately will never go out of style,’ Freedman said.

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