Newspapers in decline

What would our civilization be like without newspapers? Your leisurely breakfast with a cuppa joe  while reading the important news of the day might become a relic of the past.

As sad as it might be, this day may soon be approaching. Dwindling readership and advertising revenues have put many formidable newspapers out of business with others at the brink of going under.

This form of communications has been the bulwark of our society going back to Colonial Days of the original Tea Party. As printing techniques improved with the invention of lino-type in the late 19th century, American society has depended on the newspapers to be its primary information source.

Much has changed in the last decade as the Third Estate has declined in importance. Newsprint has been surpassed by other media outlets that the public increasingly prefers. As an individual who bleeds headlines, gallows, deadlines, and scoops, it makes me sad to know newspapers are struggling so much these days.

Daniel-Borenstein-Contra-Costa-Times

With this frame of mind I recently listened to a lecture given by Daniel Borenstein, renowned editorial writer and columnist for the Contra Costa Times he gave to the Democratic Club of Rossmoor. At his publication, which is part of the regional Bay Area News Group, less revenue coming in has meant fewer reporters covering a more complex world and communities.

Borenstein recounted how the Capitol Bureau with a staff of seven has been reduced to just one person working in the Sacramento beat. Back when Dean Lesher owned The Times, several writers covered a beat. Now a single reporter wears many hats in trying to keep up with what is happening in the communities of the Diablo Valley.

Currently the county’s largest city, Concord, shares a reporter who is also responsible for Pleasant Hill.  Readers of the Contra Costa Times have noticed of late how the quality of local news coverage has suffered.

newspaper advertising decline

As the nearby graph illustrates, newspaper circulation and revenues have been in a downward spiral since 2006.  What are the reasons are for this decline? It is certainly not the fault of television or radio. While these entities increased their influence since World War II, their competitors in the print media, including magazines, did not suffer at all, until recently.

This leaves only the Internet as the villain that has displaced newspapers from the primary way Americans receive their news fix on a daily basis. Google Ask.com, Yahoo, AOL, Bing, Face book, U-Tube, Twitter, and a myriad of search engines that provide a smorgasbord of options, have introduced withering competition that threatens to make the daily newspaper obsolete.

There are no perceptible deadlines on the Internet similar to when a printed publication must go to press.  Information is released instantly. This entails little overhead, zero printing and distribution expenses to be passed on to consumers that access news and entertainment in cyberspace.

Dan Borenstein is totally correct when he laments the loss of fairness to all sides of an issue synonymous with the decline of the daily newspaper. Borenstein expressed concern that with daily print newspapers losing prominence, there will not be other media outlets to provide a similar objective approach in covering current events and election campaigns.

hearst-newspapersPart of the problem claims Borenstein is that with the increased prominence of the internet, journalism school standards that are practiced in his trade are no longer applicable to new players spawned by Internet communications. Bloggers, which in many cases may have strong ideological leanings, are not obligated to present a balanced point of view to their readers.

It appears that public opinion is drifting to the extremes of the political spectrum in contrast to the legacy perception of a strong political center that dominated political discourse and debate.

It isn’t completely fair to blame the influence of the Internet with the chaos that exists with Congress in Washington D.C.. Yet, it sure makes one nostalgic for the good old days when the New York Times, Washington Post, and other publications were forming perceptions around the issues of the day on a purported non-partisan basis.

The big question for the future is whether daily newspapers can be reinvented to become economically viable in tomorrow’s cultural milieu. One strategy being explored by the Contra Costa Times and competitors including the S.F. Chronicle is to publish an online e-edition partially replacing traditional print editions of the publication. Yet to be determined is whether this format will attract former readers and create advertising revenues to support the bottom line.

newspaper advertising declinejpgAt this point no one knows whether daily print newspapers will survive as they are presently constituted or  co-exist in an uneasy partnership as part of the internet. Newspapers must compete against different options available to the public for when they are browsing the web.

While evolution in nature by definition brings change, we are willing to spend billions of dollars to protect the habitat of red tail frogs, the harvest mouse, spotted owls, and other endangered species. But when it comes to social institutions including newspapers, we just don’t seem to care.

I hope newspapers will be able to survive and remain relevant.

The world really needs to hear the voice of Dan Borenstein and his colleagues in the press to encourage government to be accountable and provide options to assist voters to make informed decisions on Election Day.  Somehow a way must be found for us to retain their much needed expertise in our complicated society.

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CC Times Blasts Pleasant Hill Mayor rotation fiasco

pleasant hill mayor rotation fiascoIn a refreshingly candid commentary, the Contra Costa Times editorial board blasted Pleasant Hill Councilmembers Michael Harris, Tim Flaherty and Ken Carlson for their move last month to bypass fellow Councilmember Jack Weir in the traditional Pleasant Hill Mayor rotation. Continue reading “CC Times Blasts Pleasant Hill Mayor rotation fiasco”

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Good News, Bad News for Sufism Project Neighbors

Since my last article about Sufism’s controversial Walnut Creek, California building project, there are new developments to report.  Readers are encouraged to add comments regarding ongoing events, as the situation remains fluid.

Continue reading “Good News, Bad News for Sufism Project Neighbors”

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El Sobrante should take action against County development plans

While citizens in Danville and Lafayette have wised up to the top down central planning tactics of unelected regional government mandates from ABAG and MTC, citizens of El Sobrante are just waking up to the County’s “General Plan Update”. In sum, the plan update will transform El Sobrante into just another soul-less, densely populated gulag of high-rise sprawl in which to warehouse low-income families and the elderly. Continue reading “El Sobrante should take action against County development plans”

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Contra Costa Times journalist links public pension system to theft

Dan Borenstein, a columnist for the Contra Costa Times, said pensions for California’s public employees may be a form of “theft.” Speaking, on Thursday, June 21, to a large audience at the Orinda Public Library’s auditorium, Borenstein said that the pensions of public employees are leaving a large debt to future generations. Continue reading “Contra Costa Times journalist links public pension system to theft”

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CC Times endorses Candace Andersen for Supervisor

Contra Costa Times, endorses Candace Anderson, Tomi Van de Brooke, democrat machineThe Contra Costa Times today endorsed Candace Andersen for Supervisor. We do too.

I can’t believe that Andersen’s opponent Tomi Van de Brooke, advocates increasing county employee compensation (and pension costs); especially based on whacky inflationary salary surveys that only cost taxpayers more and more. Talk about a tin ear and ruinous, hamfisted, pro-union favoritism and obeisance to the Democrat Party machine in this county that has done nothing but help create the budget crisis we face in California and Contra Costa.

Van de Brooke’s appeal to abortion supporters by making County funding for Planned Parenthood a campaign focus is more than puzzling. And the media complain about the Tea Party getting derailed on social issues.

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