US newspaper industry in a free fall in internet age

March 1st, 2009 - 12:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 1 (IANS) One more American newspaper has bitten the dust as the print media faces the woes of a bad economy and the relentless onslaught of the internet.

“Goodbye, Colorado” said the simple final front-page headline as, after nearly 150 years in business, the “Rocky Mountain News” folded up Friday - the latest victim in an era of shutdowns, layoffs and cutbacks plaguing the newspaper industry.

The final edition sold like wildfire Friday morning, less than 24 hours after the paper’s parent company, Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Co. announced its closure, leaving Denver, like most American cities, a one-newspaper town.

Some buyers who succeeded in getting a copy wasted no time reselling them on eBay. Multiple copies of the paper were posted to the online auction house, with prices ranging from a penny (plus shipping) to $14.99. If only that was an everyday story!

“It’s in a free fall and nobody knows where the bottom is. It’s kind of like water in the toilet swirling around and nobody knows what is left when you’re done flushing,” media critic Eric Alterman was quoted as saying by CNN.

Newspapers across the country are under pressure as readership declines along with advertising revenue, while more and more Americans get their information online.

The dramatic decline in advertising dollars in a brutal economy has forced newspapers to cut costs by firing cartoonists, columnists and others, leaving them searching for jobs in a struggling industry.

Pia Catton lost her job as arts editor of the New York Sun five months ago, when the newspaper closed. She has taken a short-term job editing a book, but she told CNN she may need to look at different careers soon.

Last week, the San Francisco Chronicle announced it was in danger of being sold or closed if it doesn’t stop losing millions. Officials from the Hearst Corp., owners of the Chronicle, said the paper lost $50 million in 2008 and is on pace to lose more this year.

Hearst said it is also prepared to close the Seattle Post-Intelligencer if it cannot be sold. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News filed for bankruptcy protection last week, joining Chicago’s Tribune Co. and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in Chapter 11 status.

Industry analyst John Morton cited by the Washington Post called the Rocky’s failure to find a buyer unsurprising. “The market is awash in newspapers for sale, and nobody is buying them,” he said.

“This recession has so impacted advertising revenue, particularly classifieds, that it’s driven into unprofitability those who are in a precarious position.”

Mike Simonton, a bond analyst at Fitch Ratings, said a number of other newspapers could close by the end of 2010, and those that survive will be focused on local news with smaller staffs and less printed content

The Deadline Club in New York City, one of the largest chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists ran a workshop on “Layoff Survival Guide: How to Succeed in the Most Trying Times” last week.

“With newsrooms downsizing, find out how to prepare if you’re concerned about losing your job, you’ve received a pink slip, or you just want to be ready for what’s ahead,” said the invite to the workshop.

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