Friday, June 21, 2013

Requiem for a Daily

The almost inevitable has happened - The Oregonian will cease to exist as a daily newspaper becoming more    focused on digital content and finding a way to make it pay.

I say inevitable because once Advance Publications (which owns the O) cut the New Orleans Times-Picayune to a three-times-a-week product you just knew the writing was on the wall at the O.

I say almost because since that happened a competing paper has started and in response the T-P has decided to fill in the daily delivery gaps with a printed product just for newsstands.

Plus the T-Ps strategy has been an omnishambles - totally and completely unrecognizable as anything remotely associated with smarts and business savvy.

David Carr in the New York Times suggested, when the Times-Picayune decided to produce another printed newsstand-only edition to fill in the gaps it left with the delivered paper, that print journalism is still where it is at.  I suspect that this is more wishful thinking than sober analysis.  What the recent history of the T-P suggested to me is that traditional print newspaper businesses are ill-equipped to deal with the future, or perhaps more precisely Newhouse's Advance Publications is ill-equipped.  Unfortunately, the O is owned by Advance.

I had a dream, which is now fantasy but to which I hold dearly, that Advance would crumble and that someone, perhaps Robert Pamplin, would snap up the O and save it.

In the meantime we have the OregonLive website - recently revamped and a total mess.   Full disclosure, this  blog is a part of the Oregonian News Network (okay, maybe not for long after this) for which I receive absolutely all.  I said yes primarily because I am happy to support anything that might just possibly help keep the O afloat.  Because I have said many times in this blog that I think investigative journalism (which takes real hard legwork and should not be mistaken for blogging) is a public good of which we far underestimate the worth.

We also have the revolving door of recently minted journalism school grads that the O has become and coverage of most issues has become transparently superficial as a result.  This is not the talented and hard-working new reporters fault, just the simple result of the fact that the job, done well, requires experience, knowledge and contacts - something you build up over decades at a paper.

I do think we are in a period of transition, just like music and  movies and that journalism will end up more digital than paper, but we haven't yet figured out how real investigative journalism is going to survive.  I think it might just take a real dearth of investigative journalism for people to realize what they have missed.  But we can't leave journalism to run as a charity, there has to be real public support of it.  We do it for radio and TV because it is clear that the market will not support enough of it, so let's do it for journalism in general.

The only silver lining for this old-school daily print newspaper and coffee sipping middle aged man in Portland, Oregon is that you can get the New York Times delivered to your door seven days a week for $16.  I'll keep my O subscription for now but I am skeptical of what the future holds - there is barely enough investigative journalism now, what will the new newsroom look like?

In the meantime, I am deeply saddened for those reporters who are on their way out: they have made positive and significant contributions to the state of Oregon, the city of Portland and to my like and for that I thank them all.  

No comments: