Blogging isn’t hurting newspapers. Newspapers are helping blogs grow.
Many months ago, someone named Stephen* presented me with an interest question to my statement about whether blogging was killing newspapers. He said that maybe it wasn’t that blogging was killing newspapers, but rather it was the decline of the quality of newspapers that have lead to an increase in blogging.
Over the past several years, I’ve seen how Gannett (owners of USA Today) have decimated the local reporting staff at the Indianapolis Star. They get rid of people who know how to report and write (and yes, there’s a difference). They get rid of well-known writers that bring regular readers to the paper in favor of a couple of recent college grads who — together — make up 75% of the salary of the original writer. They have bombed out the newsroom, eliminated business writers, booted popular columnists, and slashed the different culture and dining critics. To add insult to injury, the design work for the Indianapolis Star will soon be moved to Louisville. All we’re left with is a sterilized husk of what was once an awesome newspaper.
The Indianapolis Star, when it was run by the Pulliam family, actually won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975, for its outstanding reporting in exposing police corruption in 1974. (The Indianapolis Star, when it has been run by Gannett has, well, not.) I’ve been reading the book by Dick Cady, one of the reporters who helped break the police corruption story wide open, and I sometimes wonder if I’m reading about the same newspaper.
I’m reading a newspaper that wasn’t afraid to go up against local law enforcement for the sake of truth, justice, and the American way. Meanwhile, I’m left with a newspaper whose median years of newsroom experience is slowly drifting toward the single digits.
And yet Gannett can’t figure out why newspaper ad revenue is dropping like a rock. I’ll tell you why: no one wants to read the Indianapolis edition of USA Today. But that’s what we’ll be left with in less than five years (some former Indy Star readers and employees think five years is overly optimistic).
Blogging is not to blame for this. Blogging has not harmed the Indianapolis Star. Blogging did not make Gannett fire people like columnists Ruth Holladay or Lori Borgman, or business writers like John Ketzenberger. Blogging did not kill what was actually a profit-making online venture by replacing the editor with someone much younger.
Instead, blogging is picking up the pieces that Gannett and other big-city newspapers are dropping whenever they gut their newsrooms yet again.
There’s a great blog on the southeast side of Indianapolis called (what else?) Southeast Indianapolis Communities. It’s a simple little blog that has nothing but news for the southeast side of town. They’re covering the news and events that the Indy Star won’t and can’t cover. They’re doing the kind of reporting that the Star doesn’t have the staff, time, or even city knowledge to adequately write about.
Basically, Southeast Indianapolis Communities is filling the gap left by Gannett’s mishandling of the Indianapolis Star, and they’re doing a great job. In this case, SIC hasn’t hurt the Star. Rather, the growing crappiness of the Star is helping the SIC.
What about your newspaper in your city? Is your newspaper holding on, or are you seeing the same decimation and ruin that we’re seeing in Indianapolis? Tell us about your city’s newspaper and if you’re seeing any local blogs picking up the slack. (And tell us about those too.)
My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy, who I also helped write Twitter Marketing For Dummies (another affiliate link).
Stephen, I can’t find the post where you commented with this great insight. If you’re out there, let me know who you are, so I can at least link to a Twitter page or your blog, or something.
Photo credit: afagen (Flickr)