Newspapers still alive and kicking in high-tech world

1/26/2013

Despite Morley Safer's report, newspapers still have a place in the world of iPads and the Internet.

Despite Morley Safer's report, newspapers still have a place in the world of iPads and the Internet.

A few weeks ago, "60 Minutes" broadcasted a segment on the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the city's newspaper.

It has decided to print three times a week instead of daily, making New Orleans the largest city in the United States without a daily paper.

With the cut in publication days came cuts in staffing, which is the saddest part of this story.

Instead of giving readers a daily, physical newspaper to hold, the Times-Picayune is bolstering its online presence.

Everyone knows the newspaper industry is not what it once was. The changes are all around us.

Many in New Orleans are upset, feeling the newspaper is depriving its readers of daily news and ownership is harming a city institution.

"60 Minutes" noted that one-third of New Orleans residences are not connected to the Internet, so the news will reach fewer people.

But the segment's theme was that newspapers are a dinosaur, giving viewers the impression the industry will soon go away.

Newspapers are here, and I think there is a place for them, even in a society in which the latest gadget is obsolete before you get it home and out of the box.

Certainly, newspapers were slow to embrace technology. Maybe it was ignorance, maybe arrogance and maybe a little of both.

There are newspapers still trying to figure out how to present information in print and online and try to make a profit doing both.

Many newspapers give away their content online. Many more charge for all or a portion of it.

It never made much sense to me that newspapers would allow customers to read all of their content online for free but charge newspaper subscribers.

The Times-Picayune cited cuts in advertising revenue as the reason for making it a three-day-a-week paper.

It's no secret advertising dollars are the life-blood of newspapers. Every week it is a balancing act between content and advertising.

Printing and mailing costs increase, and the advertising dollars must keep up. If there is not adequate advertising on a regular basis, newspapers cannot afford to print and mail their publications.

Newspapers are dependent upon businesses supporting them and citizens supporting those businesses.

It's all connected. We are no different than any other business who depends on local shoppers.

Newspapers ran into trouble several years ago when they misjudged the rapid escalation of the use of technology.

Add to that the economic downturn in this country that caused paychecks to dwindle, causing consumer spending to drop, causing businesses to cut back or stop advertising entirely, and newspapers were caught in a perfect storm.

But all is not doom and gloom for the newspapers.

The Orange County Register in California, one of the 20 largest papers in the country, is adding staff, going from 185 to 300.

Also, six of the eight largest publicly traded newspapers in the U.S. have shown double digit stock price increases.

Closer to home, Warren Buffet is investing in newspapers, and I can't believe he would spend his money if he didn't believe in the health of the industry.

On Main Street Humphrey, Neb., it's so far so good.

We've owned the paper 10 months, and while there is much to learn and figure out, I think this newspaper is healthy.

But as the saying goes, we're day to day.

I believe in newspapers, and I believe in community newspapers. I started at a weekly newspaper, and it's where I plan to finish.

That's what makes communities like this so great.

Patrick Murphy, of Humphrey, Neb., is a former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.

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