Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Called it

The News and Free Press are cutting home delivery to just Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. The paper will still be published seven days a week, but it will only be available at stores and in coin boxes. But I wouldn't call it much of a paper. The Free Press promises "a more compact product ... with an easy-to-pull-out sports section, provocative commentary and enriched lifestyle coverage." On weekends, the paper will be "more substantial" -- thus admitting that the daily paper will not be substantial -- but will also include more "features with quick summaries of information and events." In other words, the Free Press will, in so much as possible, no longer publish news.

The Free Press brags without shame that this strategy "contrasts with significant across-the-board cuts ... at many newspapers" despite years of cutbacks that have gutted both of our dailies. And the cuts will likely continue as the papers hemorrhage readers and make the rocky (but necessary) transition to the internet. The future looks very ugly, not just here but everywhere (see the New Yorker for the scope of the problem). The truth is, for the foreseeable future, Detroit will have no reliable, in-depth news source -- and it needs it, bad.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The death of print

Print journalism is dying, fast. Newspapers have been declining for more than twenty years, and the recession, coupled with the continued growth of the internet, is bankrupting what remains of the industry.

The Christian Science Monitor will soon be online-only after a century in print. Time, Inc. is slashing its staff. Locally, the "Daily" Tribune will now be published just four days a week. I wouldn't blink if the News, the Metro Times, or any of our small local papers announce more major cutbacks or simply fold.

So what will replace them? So far, not much. Detroit's web-only media is rapidly expanding, from Model D to Detour to bloggers, but none of these are news organizations. Model D rounds up and writes positive news about Detroit; it won't tell you that the mayor's corrupt or the cops are underfunded. Among bloggers, only Detroit Blog does original reporting. His profiles are great -- who else would interview this guy? -- but he's no replacement for a beat reporter doing hard news.

The New York Times says the future may lie with small, web-only, non-profit journalism outfits. If so, I hope someone gives it a try here soon. As it stands, not only are the dailies totally inadequate, there are no alternatives online.