CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The newspaper industry is ailing, and Goldman Sachs sees its condition getting even worse in 2008. Advertisers and readers already are deserting, and the downturn is expected to accelerate as the overall national economy slows. If Goldman Sachs is correct, newsrooms should be shivering because bad times are going to be badder and more jobs will disappear as the industry contracts. Mediabistro noted today that the newspaper division chief at Gannett Co. Inc., the nation's largest newspaper chain, has decided to get out. Gannett owns The Cincinnati Enquirer, Ohio's third largest metro daily, where budget cuts have been trimming staff along with space for comprehensive news coverage.
Meanwhile, Daily Bellwether contributor Bill Osinski -- a former Akron Beacon Journal reporter who also spent time on news staffs in Atlanta and Detroit -- sees the newspaper biz as culpable for its own decline. He thinks the budget cutting is a death wish. Osinski's take:
Newspapers On Suicide Watch
With recent studies showing that major newspaper corporations have lost an astounding 42 per cent of their stock value in the past year, one could be forgiven for concluding that rumors of the industry's death have not been exaggerated. But this could be a case of a self-fulfilling death wish.
To wit, imagine this transcript of a recent telephone conversation:
Operator: Hello. Suicide Hotline.
Caller: Yes. Max Media here. I'm trying to commit suicide, and I need help.
Operator: That's what we're here for, friend.
Max: No, no. I run a chain of newspapers, and I've been predicting their demise for years. I just need a little help in figuring out how to put me and my thousands of employees out of our misery.
Operator: But we're supposed to stop such things.
Max: Work with me a little here, will ya. Look, I've done all I can think of to ruin my business. I've had wave after wave of buyouts and layoffs, so I've run off most of my best and most experienced editors and reporters; I'm giving my product away on the Internet, even though I don't have a clue about how to sell ads in cyberspace; and I've dumbed-down the newspapers to the point where I'm driving off droves of readers every day.
Operator: Sounds like you're doing a pretty good job of doing away with yourself. But why are you so determined to stay in despair? Look, I still get the newspaper. I like it. I get lots of info I can't get anywhere else. And who's going to tell me what's really going on in my city when you're gone? Why don't you just wake yourself up, dust yourself off, stop trying to be like radio and TV?
Max: Hmmm. Put out a better product. What a concept.
Operator: See, I told you. Everything's not as bleak as it may seem.
Max: Nah. I'd rather be right and fail than succeed but prove myself wrong. Besides, I just can't wait to write my own obit.