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Marcus R. Donner/AP

A Trickle of Hope for Print Media

March 20, 2009 10:30 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff

A big-city paper and a southern lifestyle magazine manage to find buyers in a desperate media market.

San Diego Union-Tribune and Garden & Gun Live for Another Day

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There's a glimmer of good news for print journalism: after eight months on the block, the San Diego Union-Tribune has been sold to a Beverly Hills private equity firm, thus bucking the trend that has stopped the presses of newspapers around the country, including the 146-year-old Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Rocky Mountain News. And in Charleston, S.C., Garden & Gun, a high-end “Southern lifestyle magazine” launched in 2007, was saved from extinction when its publisher, Rebecca Darwin, helped buy the publication after its owner pulled out of a five-year agreement.

The decision by Evening Post Publishers—which also owns many community newspapers—“had more to do with the dire economic situation surrounding the newspaper world than with the magazine's success,” according to Mediabistro. Darwin claims G&G, with a circulation of 220,000, increased its ad revenue 230 percent in 2008 year and planned to up its issues from seven to eight this year, a rare achievement in a dire economic climate where print media has struggled with the shift to online news consumption and the collapse of ad revenue.

Background: The end of print news

Newspapers all over the country are struggling because of the recession, the rise of free content on the Internet and poor ad revenue. Newspaper executives are struggling to create new models that will both satisfy peoples' need to read news online and also allow newspapers to continue generating income.

Although people tend to prefer to read news for free online, it is newspapers that fund investigative journalism. Unfortunately, because of declining ad sales and revenue, money for investigative journalism is running out. In some cases, citizen journalists are taking up the work formerly performed by professionals. In others, nonprofit organizations like ProPublica are taking up the cause of investigative journalism.

As newspapers struggle financially, some news media outlets are thriving. Specifically, Bloomberg News continues to grow as other papers suffer through layoffs. Bloomberg competes with news agencies like Reuters and the Associated Press, and has started to expand its coverage beyond financial news.

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Related Topic: Newspaper crisis fuels rumors

There is a great deal of gossip about newspapers’ struggles, but every paper seems desperate both to survive and convince the public of its security. After the Atlantic published an article suggesting that the print edition of The New York Times might fold, the Times responded with a letter to the Atlantic stating that the article was factually inaccurate and poorly researched.

In August 2008, Maine’s Portland Press Herald announced in court that it was in dire financial straits, causing residents to fear that the city would lose its only paper. One dismayed Portland woman wondered to The Boston Globe whether you could be a major city without a newspaper. The paper denied that it would fold and is still operating.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has also promised to stay in business despite filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Publisher Chris Harte said that the bankruptcy filing would give the state’s largest paper resources to become even better when the economy improved.
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