Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Local Journalism: Dying a Slow Death

The morning newspaper brings this news, printed on a single sheet of paper, composed by the general manager (the guy with a ring of keys). It was tucked in the home-delivery bag, and it apparently bypassed the pesky copy editing that might have provided clarity and coherence or supplied more than a series of breathless imperatives:
DeSoto Sun Customers
Please Read
The DeSoto Sun Newspaper will begin delivery six days per
week. The DeSoto paper will publish Tuesday through Sunday.
No Monday delivery! Effective 1/19/09
No home delivery or single copy papers in stores or racks
starting Monday 1/19/0-9 and contining on as a six day per week delivered paper.
Subscription rates will maintain current price point as a six day delivered product.
E-Mail your concerns and comments to ...

The news -- as told not by the publisher but by the guy with the thermostat key -- is this daily's publication schedule is being cut to six days a week. It's happening just a couple of months after home delivery was suspended to most of the county and a week after the complete shutdown of another paper in the Dunn-Rankin chain. The news is subscription rates will continue as if the paper were available seven days a week, says the man in charge of loading the trucks.
Old Word Wolf's "concerns and comments" are actually questions: Will this in any way improve local news coverage? Will reporters and editors have more time to delve into local government and schools and report on tax money at work?
Doubt it; that's not how things work. And the irony is, one of the newspaper's general managers, Lang Capasso, wrote in his (unedited, grammatically challenged) column just yesterday:

"Many newspapers seem to have forgotten what made them important to people. We haven’t and that’s why Sun Coast Media papers will always be at the table as the coffee is being drunk, the eggs eaten and the conversation turns to the news. We recognize that local news and the community are important to people. They’re important to us as well because, after all, we’re a part of this community too and what affects our neighbors down the street affects us as well."

I like that part: "... will always be at the table ..."

Always means never on Monday, not at all in Hardee -- and oh, only on Wednesdays and Saturdays in Venice, and only when the mail carrier comes if you live in the rural parts of DeSoto.

It's a shame, because if the Dunn-Rankins had understood genuine journalism, instead of "photos provided," rehashed press releases, plagiarizing preachers, and forced features there might have been a little more reader loyalty and support -- and thus value for the fast-disappearing advertisers.


  1. "Publisher Derek Dunn-Rankin could not be reached for comment; he had not yet returned from the yacht club by press time."

  2. Where to begin?
    Typically the publisher or executive editor of the newspaper makes an announcement like this in a statement.
    Why a general manager issued the statement is similar to many procedures at SCMG. It is something thought out perhaps "at the table" by someone who is "drunk."
    Those who read OWW's excellent blog and analysis and know the back story know that the grammatically challenged general manager is typical of the management that lack the skills and leadership abilities to put together a coherent, error free, well rounded news package that reflects what people need to know about their community and what people are talking about in their community.
    But I'm sure they plan on "contining" publishing the same newspapers with the same irrelevant, self promoting, cheerleading and out of touch news content that fuels their declining readership.
    And then sit back and watch it decline without the courage to make the management changes necessary to give these papers a chance at turning things around.
    Hell, even the Detroit Lions had the guts and brains to fire their coaching staff after going 0 - 16.