Monday, December 15, 2008

The future can wait

Our newspapers are listening to what readers want and we would expect there to be a continued extension of content, particularly online, as well as continued expansion of video, rich databases of local information and other content that is first and foremost useful to our audiences.

- Dean Singleton, 61st World Newspaper Congress, 2008. (

What a difference a few short months can make.

As usual, MediaNews' rhetoric fails to coalesce into reality. Once the newspaper of record for the burgeoning tech sector (and home of the first journlist blog), the San Jose Mercury News hasn't done much to gain an online audience, and now they plan on doing even less.

According to, the plans for a strong Web presence at the Merc have been scrapped.

In order to compete with online, George Riggs, the paper’s former publisher, told the NYT that, “The answer for newspapers has to lie in building their Web sites better and better, and promote, promote, promote. We haven’t seen that.” But with others at the paper saying that “grand plans” have given way to day-to-day survival, the San Jose paper’s editor David Butler, online enhancements will have to wait. Butler: “Until or unless we see that those things pay for themselves, we make a serious mistake in focusing too much on that.” But the catch is, how can the website start attracting ad dollars and readers if Merc News doesn’t offer a better online environment?

Of course, this is the same company that scrapped the profitable San Pedro Magazine, arguably in an effort to keep ahead of their titanic debt. That decision, like the Los Angeles Daily News layoffs (and others) came without warning or preamble, stunning both staffers and readers.

When a company fails to capitalize on an opportunity, or abandons a lucrative product, it's never reassuring. What's even more troubling is that sacrifices like these don't solve the company's financial problems - it merely delays them. And in this case, that delay is likely to prove short-lived. The only real hope for MediaNews is a dramatic change in circulation or advertising. Unfortunately the odds of a resurgence decrease with each loss in content and coverage. How can readers and advertisers come back, when each day has less and less for them to return to?

Fortunately for San Pedro residents, former San Pedro Magazine editor Josh Stecker is taking matters into his own hands, launching the independent San Pedro Today to fill the void left by MediaNews. Gary Scott has the details.

One of our members was at a meeting with Stecker before the announcement, here's what he sent us:

...In the newsroom last week, just one day after an Pedro Magazine editor Joshua Stecker was told his services were no longer needed, Josh spoke to members passionately about his frustration with the cancellation of the magazine and the fact that it was making money. He was holding back when discussions came up about starting a publication and looked like he wanted to tell us something but didn't, and most likely couldn't. Guild members talked with him about the fact that the paper virtually has no food/ arts and entertainment section, despite the fact that Long Beach and the surrounding cities are loaded with talent waiting to have their story told. The travel section of the LA Daily news is now gone, and I'm sure the food section is on the block soon.


Anonymous said...

Good for him, if big business is going to ignore the community, the community should ignore them.

Let's hope more smart people take the hint and start filling in the gaps that big media leave behind, and support local publications!

Anonymous said...


The grand plan for newspapers is to ween the reader off of print entirely and force them to read the paper online. I has already begun in Detroit.

It's time for someone who cares about the Paper and its impact on the surrounding cities to BUY THIS PAPER !!!!!

....Tick Tock Rich

Anonymous said...

Most of what is in Mr. Singleton's papers these days is barely worthy of birdcage lining. No offense to the staffers intended. Maybe its time for some of the philanthropically-minded citizens in the Southland to make an offer Mr. Singleton can't refuse and save journalism in Southern California. Without the work print journalists produce, even his online ventures will fail. Instead of buying more papers, Mr. Singleton, you should start selling yours.

Anonymous said...

Is hoping to cut into the contract at the Denver Post and save 20 Million. If the union lets that happen then then truly the The Newspaper Guild has been neutered.

Why should we help a man who has no Idea what is doing !!!!

Like the car companies, let them die and be reborn.