Will The Oregonian survive?

Local news coverage is dying.

dyingnewspapers

The latest casualty — the entire staff of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. All 161 of them, , including reporters and editors, are losing their jobs.

On May 2, the Times-Picayune’s rival, the New Orleans Advocate, bought the Times-Picayune and plans to merge the papers under a single masthead and website. The seller — Advance Local Media LLC, the parent of Oregonian Media Group.  Even winning  two Pulitzers for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina didn’t serve the Times-Picayune.

Randy Siegel, CEO of Advance Local, assured the New York Post’s Keith J. Kelly that the sale of the Times-Picayune was a one-time thing. But what if it’s not? Is The Oregonian/OregonLive at risk, too?

Daily newspapers like the Times-Picayune and The Oregonian were once pervasive throughout the United States, with many communities having both a morning and evening paper, and sometimes a weekly local paper as well. But daily local newspapers are now in decline, dealing with cratering circulation, a reduction in print editions and drastic staff cuts.

According to the Wall St. Journal, nearly 1,800 US newspapers shut down between 2004 and 2018, including more than 60 dailies and 1,700 weeklies. Hundreds of communities have lost their local newspapers. Between 1,300 and 1,400 communities that had newspapers of their own in 2004 now have no news coverage at all, according to the UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media.

It was once unthinkable that papers such as the Cincinnati Post, the Albuquerque Tribune, the New York Sun, the Rocky Mountain News, and the Tampa Tribune would close, but they are all gone now. Nicco Mele, former director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, predicts that half of remaining titles will disappear within the next two years.

Newspaper consumption in Oregon is already dropping precipitously, with daily and weekly circulation combined falling from 1.4 million in 2004 to 796,000 in 2019, the UNC Center says.

Some of the remaining Oregon papers are what the UNC Center calls “ghosts”  because their newsroom staffing has been so dramatically pared back, often by more than half,  that the remaining journalists cannot adequately cover their communities.

In January 2018, when Willamette Week broke that The Oregonian was laying off another 11 newsroom staffers, the Portland Mercury observed, “After repeated rounds of layoffs, it’s hard to imagine The Oregonian having anywhere else to cut. But the news business’s grim prognosis marches on, so the cuts continue.”

“For those inclined to point fingers at The Oregonian or our parent company Advanced Publications: Ad revenue across our industry continues to plummet precipitously. Layoffs in local newsrooms are happening everywhere. And it fucking sucks,” Oregonian reporter Shane D. Kavanaugh tweeted.

Compared with its breadth and depth in the 1990s, The Oregonian/OregonLive has become a ghost. When I was a business reporter at The Oregonian in the 1980s and 1990s, the business team of reporters and editors was a robust 8-10 individuals covering a panoply of topics from energy and healthcare to labor and retail. OregonLive’s list of staff today includes just one reporter, Mike Rogoway, specifically devoted to business coverage , unless you also count Jeff Manning, who is listed as a reporter covering Health Care Business, OHSU.

Sports coverage is still robust, with 12 reporters and editors, but just one reporter, Gordon Friedman, is specifically assigned to covering everything going on at Portland City Hall.

When the Jan. 2018 layoffs were announced, The Oregonian/OregonLive’s editor and vice president of content, Mark Katches, said to the paper’s staff, “You’re probably asking yourself, when will these cuts end? I wish I could answer that. Although we have made progress growing our digital audience while also producing award-winning, and important journalism, the revenue picture continues to pose challenges for our company – as is the case across the media landscape.”

In August 2018, Katches abandoned ship himself to take a new job as executive editor of the Tampa Bay Times, another paper that has had its own struggles both before and since it acquired its competitor,  the Tampa Tribune, in 2016 .

With all the strife in the newspaper business, is The Oregonian/OregonLive ripe for the same fate as the Times-Picayune.

Don’t think it can’t happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twin Tragedies: The travails of The Oregonian and the L.A. Times

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The Oregonian just announced it is laying off 11 more reporters, continuing what seems like a never-ending story.

You may recognize some of the names: Samantha Bakall, Jen Beyrle, Molly Blue, Allan Brettman, Jessica Floum, Susan Green, Anna Marum, Lynne Palombo, Mike Richman, Lynne Terry, Jerry Ulmer.

“Today, the positions of 11 of our colleagues in the newsroom are being eliminated,” the paper’s editor, Mark Katches, wrote in a memo to staff. “You’re probably asking yourself, when will these cuts end?,” the paper’s editor, Mark Katches, wrote in a memo to staff. “I wish I could answer that. Although we have made progress growing our digital audience while also producing award-winning, and important journalism, the revenue picture continues to pose challenges for our company—as is the case across the media landscape.”

Founded in 1850 as a four page weekly, iThe Oregonian’s first issue was printed in a log shack on SW First and Morrison, For many years after, it continued to build on its long and storied history.

But today it’s a mere shadow of its former self, and fading rapidly.

Unfortunately, The Oregonian’s not the only struggling news organization on the West Coast.

The Los Angeles Times is mired in turmoil and the people on its news staff are stunned with their predicament.

When Times workers voted on Jan. 4, 2018 to unionize, they figured it would bring a better deal and a more secure future.

“With a union, we can begin to address stagnant wages, pay disparities and declining benefits,” the union pronounced.

Don’t count on it.

Things struggling old-line newspapers are not doing these days are guaranteeing employment, handing out big annual raises and lowering healthcare premiums.

Union leaders said their goals include keeping the working conditions they like and getting a better deal on things they don’t like.

Demand all you want, folks, but it ain’t gonna happen.

Once massive influencers like the Los Angeles Times are on the decline, not the upswing. How the mighty have fallen.

About 20 years ago, the L.A. Times had an editorial staff of about 1,000 people. It’s now about 400, with more layoffs and buyouts expected.

As Nieman Lab, a website reporting on digital media innovation, put it this past week, ‘It’s a cut-of-the-month club, a gift that just keeps on giving.”

About 20 years ago, the L.A. Times had 22 foreign bureaus and 17 bureaus in the United States. By 2012, it had ten foreign “bureaus,” eight of them consisting of just one person, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. Today, the Times website lists just five staffed foreign bureaus (Beijing; Beirut; Johannesburg; Mexico City; Mumbai), with four of them staffed by just one person, plus a bureau in Sacramento and a bureau in Washington, D.C.

In Jan. 2003, the Times announced it planed to launch later that year its fifth regional edition, which would focus on the Inland Empire’s fast-growing Riverside and San Bernardino counties. “It’s a huge market, and parts of it have very strong affinities to Los Angeles,” John Puerner, then the Times’ CEO, publisher, and president, said in a statement to Editor & Publisher. “I think it could represent an important source of future, consistent, regular circulation growth.”

So much for that.

The regional editions are dead and gone.

About 20 years ago, the paper launched a National Edition. To the dismay of its supporters, it too expired.

So don’t get your hopes up all you folks in the L.A. Times newsroom. The union’s not going to save you.