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Blog chronicles downward spiral of McClatchy newspapers

If you can stomach it, surf over to McClatchy Watch, which has the depressing state of affairs in newspaper publishing — layoffs, shutdowns, furloughs, pay cuts. Just a sampling:

* Bradenton Herald eliminates 15 positions, cuts wages

* Belleville News-Democrat to eliminate 30 positions, implement wage cuts

* Biloxi Sun Herald lays off 9, cuts wages

* The Olympian lays off 15, cuts wages

and this horrible news:

Raleigh News & Observer to lay off 78 employees, implement pay cuts… update: 27 in newsroom to be laid off.

This isn’t the first round of cuts for the N&O either. The N&O used to be a family-owned paper and it made a profit. It was sold to McClatchy, which appears to have gutted all the profitable papers to prop up the red-ink papers. Now most of the papers are in trouble due to the debt load of the company and a disappearing revenue stream. It’s hard to see how weakening and cannibalizing your papers is a winning model.

The N&O is, of course, the newspaper that recently launched its My View column that I contribute to (in its Durham News community edition).

More below the fold.I was recently interviewed by CBS/Logo/365gay about the whole “print is dying – will people get news from blogs” meme. I think it airs Thursday. In a nutshell, the death of traditional LGBT or MSM journalism is just awful. Most bloggers rely on the work of paid journalists who do their work full time. It’s more of a symbiotic relationship, but at times from the inside and the outside it’s been competitive, even adversarial. The problem is the most newspapers and magazines in their print incarnation, is delivering old news. It ages too fast in the age of the Web, so consequently, they’ve had to add an Internet publication. The latter has much less overhead than the print, which has to be delivered, depends on paid ads and subscriptions. With those revenue streams cratering (and no comparable online revenue to replace it) it’s a doomed business model.

As much as we like getting news for free, unless you want to see the demise of local reporting and its watchdog function for local and state pols, or specialized reporting, such as LGBT journalism, they will have a difficult time staying afloat. The problem is the pay model; how do you make it affordable to “subscribe” to your favorite news sites in one fell swoop? That’s the only model that I can see working, though I’m sure brighter minds can come up with something more palatable.

UPDATE: I’ve heard from a source inside at the N&O (not the editor of the Durham News; that would be way too obvious) who said that the main drain on McClatchy is its huge debt accumulated when it bought the Knight-Ridder newspapers. The dwindling staff is now in the position of working to pay that debt off. Gee, hope it’s not Bank of America. lol. Anyway, part of the “solution” is for The Charlotte Observer and the N&O to collaborate. I guess that means share resources, reporting, etc. What a mess.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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