Sunday, November 16, 2008

The water's rough, but we're still afloat

Silas Lyons writes:

Newspapers are notoriously bad at reporting on themselves, but we could be close to a chain of events that will turn the industry that invented daily headlines into headline news.

I hope I'm wrong. But if so, I'll have a lot of company.

When the Christian Science Monitor announced at the end of October that it will stop publishing in print next year, many folks who know the business suspected we may have started down a long stretch of rough river. At this point, it's too late to paddle back upstream.

This week, news broke that a newspaper chain, Journal Register, will close the newspapers that serve two Connecticut towns in January. The company has additional newspapers up for sale and is struggling with its debts. Its stock trades for a penny a share.

Journal Register is perhaps in the worst shape of all the newspaper chains. But others are carrying debt loads that threaten their existence, particularly with the economy sinking deeper into the doldrums and the cost of paper rising while sites like Craigslist hand out free classified advertising and eliminate what was once the industry's most reliable source of profit.

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