Updated: 05/07/2013

The Print Media





Newspapers Today



>>With almost $30 billion in revenue, the death of newspapers is certainly not imminent, but for some time readership and advertising revenue have been dropping. For the most part, even newspapers whose companies are being reorganized through bankruptcy are still profitable.

But revenues have fallen a total of 23% in just two years.

The industry lost about 10% of its newsroom jobs -- and the larger papers lost an even higher percentage.

The chart below shows why. Note that all the print media declined in readership while cable and online viewership more than made up the difference.

Media Trends

Sources: Arbitron, Audit Bureau of Circulations, comScore Media Metrix, Nielsen Media Research and stateofthemedia.org.

One response to this has been conglomeration. By combining news operations, a newspaper that also acquires a TV or radio station can use a single newsroom and team of reporters to provide news for all of the owned news outlets.

>>"Personnel" represents the most expensive operating cost. With conglomerates focusing on maximizing profits, employees and even consumers can lose out.

1. For example, to cut costs several large newspapers have recently closed foreign bureaus and, as we've noted, laid off reporters and photographers. By depending more on wire services such as the AP, CNN, or even corporate publicity releases, news perspectives are reduced.

2. The emphasis on profit means that salaries are kept low  --  especially for entry-level positions. This typically results in a "brain drain," where talented people leave the profession for better-paying jobs in other fields. Some cost-conscious employers have even encouraged senior (experienced) employees to leave so they can replace new hires at entry-level salaries.

3. Since absentee ownership is replacing local ownership, local needs and interests are often sacrificed in news coverage.

4. The emphasis on sales and stimulating ad revenue may mean that what's covered in the newspaper may be aimed toward advertisers and the local economy.

The graph on the left shows a typical breakdown of advertising revenue for a city newspaper.

Note that most ad revenue comes from local advertisers. This is followed by classified ads. For most newspapers (excluding national newspapers, such as USA Today and the Wall Street Journal) national advertising represents a distant third.

>>There comes a point, of course, when the results of cost-cutting impacts newspaper subscriptions. We've probably all flipped though an unfamiliar newspaper to find that beyond the ads there were only generalized wire copy stories and press releases (self-serving information from various institutions) that had little relevance to the community.

Possibly the only local news consisted of contributions by area stringers (people who, while not being trained as journalists, receive money on a per-story basis for covering local events in their spare time).


Checkout Tabloids

>>Although not generally considered newspapers, at least in the traditional sense, supermarket tabloids such as The National Enquirer actually exceed all other newspapers in overall circulation.UFO

There has been considerable debate as to whether these weekly tabloids should be classified as newspapers, magazines, or something in between.

The content of tabloids range from "somewhat believable" to "total fiction." With headlines such as "Two-Headed Woman Marries Two Men," and "Two-Headed Woman Has Baby With Two Heads" (complete with created "photos"), the tabloids strain many people's tolerance for freedom of speech.

Countries that try to justify censorship often point to such stories as evidence that government control of newspapers is needed to protect naive audiences from such travesties of truth. On the other hand, as this Los Angeles Times reporter points out, yellow dot Tabloid Sleaze Is A Healthy Sign.

At the same time, after losing several multi-million dollar lawsuits, the tabloids have become rather careful about saying anything about a person that could be considered libelous.

>>The tabloids have encouraged an aggressive breed of photographers known as paparazzi. These photographers shadow famous people in an effort to get candid and revealing photos. Payment for such photos can run to tens-of-thousands of dollars for a valuable "exclusive."  This explains the motivation the paparazzi have for dogging famous people.

Although famous people  -- especially actors  -- bemoan the invasion of privacy by paparazzi and the tabloids, they also depend on them for their fame.

"Leaking" a seemingly embarrassing story on some aspect of their lives has put more than one actor on the front page of tabloids at a time when they felt they needed a boost in their visibility. It is not unusual for the "mainstream press" to then pick up the story, resulting in an even bigger boost in the person's popularity.

"Bad press" isn't necessarily a detriment to a career. As one famous person said, "I don't care what they say about me, as long as they keep my name in front of the public."


The Computerization

of Newspaper Production

>>Today, computers control almost every phase of newspaper production.

First, wire services such as AP send a constant flow of news via telephone lines and satellite links directly to newsroom computers. Editors can then search on key words to locate needed stories. Once stories are located, they can be pulled up on computer screens to be edited or rewritten as needed.

Reporters also write their stories on computers -- generally laptops.  Their stories may go directly to a personal blog or newspaper Internet site and beat the printed version by hours, if not days.


Internet Research

>>Reporters routinely do background research on stories by doing computer searches through search engines such as Google and through newspaper archives (stored computer files of stories that were previously published in the newspaper).Reporter on laptop

With billions of pages of information, the Internet is now regularly relied upon by reporters for researching stories.

And then there are blogs -- short for Web logs -- which are now read by about 35% of Internet users and many news organizations. The writers of blogs use web sites to post personal reactions to events, news of the day, rumors, and even their own personal diaries.

When a story is finished it is sent to the editor for review. A reporter can also send stories into the newsroom from "the field" via   -- a modem telephone link, in somewhat the same way we send e-mail via the Internet.


Digital Photography

>> Newspaper photographers no longer use film cameras because digital photography saves time and money.Digital Camera

Once taken, the photos are uploaded into a computer for cropping, color balancing, sharpening, etc. in a program like Photoshop.

From there they can be electronically delivered to the newsroom --- from any place in the world.

It wasn't all long ago that runners, generally riding bicycles to get through traffic in large cities, would have to rush film back to the newspaper office to be processed and printed before it could even be evaluated. This could represent a delay of several hours. 

Today, newspapers and cable news channels regularly get digital photos and videos from viewer cameras and cell phones.

>>Complete newspaper pages are now composed (assembled) on a computer screen. Completed newspaper pages can then be printed out full size to make plates for the printing presses.

Some newspapers paste up the individual page elements on a page dummy, which is then photographed to make an offset plate (printing plate) for the printing press.

The larger newspapers can transmit these pages to cities across a country to regional printing facilities  --  which is how the New York Times, for example, can be on newsstands in Los Angeles within a few hours of being finished in New York.

>>In the next section we'll summarize major historical developments in a chronological order, and list a few major Internet links.

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