Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Queen City loses one of its princes

Posted by metaphorical on 28 December 2007

How can a newspaper survive if it loses 90% of its readership? It can’t, and so it won’t, and so another afternoon paper bites the dust. In this case it’s the Cincinnati Post.

The Post’s last day will be December 31st, after 126 years of publishing. The town won’t be without a paper, it has the Cincinnati Enquirer. It’s a Gannett paper, while the Post is owned by E.W. Scripps Co. Just on that basis, the odds are the Post was the better paper. (I’ve never read either one.)

But the Enquirer is a morning paper and afternoon papers have been dropping like flies for 40 years now. According to an AP article,

As recently as 1960, The Post’s daily circulation was more than 270,000 and the nation had 1,459 afternoon newspapers. That was down to 614 by 2006, according to trade publication Editor & Publisher, and Post weekday circulation is about 27,000. Multiple newspapers in U.S. cities have also been disappearing. Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio’s two larger cities, lost an afternoon paper decades ago….

Scripps Co. two years ago closed The Birmingham (Ala.) Post-Herald and has said it will close the Albuquerque Tribune if it can’t be sold.

The 90% drop in circulation isn’t exactly the reason the Post is folding, though it’s surely behind all the other reasons. The proximate cause is that Gannett terminated an operating agreement that goes back to 1977.

For Scripps, there was study of possible ways to keep a daily newspaper in the media company’s corporate home, then a decision it wasn’t financially feasible.

For that, presumably, we have to blame the 90% drop in readership. If the people of Cincinnati won’t support a newspaper with their dollars, then maybe they don’t deserve two papers. But we’re all the poorer. According to the AP, the Post “once dispatched reporters to cover Hurricane Andrew’s devastation in Florida, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

The irony, of course, is that newspapers are moving online, and won’t much longer need the big presses that Gannett was providing the Post. The irony is that newspapers are more than ever about journalists, not paper. If only they’d hung on a little longer.

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