Friday Feb 27 2009
Newspapers may be down, but the war far from over
By: Tony Hazarian, publisher, Auburn Journal
It was a tough week for newspapers, coming on top of a rough month and a bad year. Friday’s closure of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver was the end of a fierce, competitive readership war — a battle that included shared operations and penny-a-day subscriptions. Earlier in the week, the Hearst-owned San Francisco Chronicle announced it would try to find a buyer for the debt-mired newspaper. If it can’t be sold, the newspaper that brought us Dear Abby, Herb Caen and green sports sections will be shuttered. Hearst made the same announcement regarding the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in January. It seems like everywhere you look, newspapers are struggling financially. Philadelphia. Buffalo. Tucson. San Antonio. The list is lengthy and growing longer. No, the headlines have not been kind to the newspaper industry. We’ve not been immune to the recession here at the Auburn Journal and Gold Country Media. We’ve had to make some very tough decisions. We’ve restructured through attrition, and we’ve made strategic staff reductions. We’ve tightened our newspapers to reduce newsprint and cut non-essential expenses. We’ve automated many processes and eliminated others to become more efficient. And, like all businesses, we’re paying close attention to the economic signs and adjusting our journey accordingly. But we’re not retreating, and for that we have you — our loyal readers and advertisers — to thank. Your support has been vital to us during this challenging time, and will continue to be as we all face the economic headwinds ahead. In return, we’re working overtime to be your first choice for local, community-based news and advertising. We’re headed in the right direction. Readership of the Journal in print and online has never been larger, and the story is the same for our Gold Country Media newspaper group, which saw print readership grow 12 percent in 2008. We’ve made huge strides online as well. Our redesigned Web sites feature updated news throughout the day, and citizen journalists and bloggers are contributing news and views on a dramatic scale. We now have more than 9,300 registered users of our sites. We continue to develop new print and online products. This month, we’ll publish a section dedicated to living a great life after 55, and spring will showcase an activity guide to the foothills. Our GoldCountryHomes.com Web site is packed full of new features, including a mapping tool to plan your home-shopping adventure. Value Vault, found at the top of Auburnjournal.com, offers valuable coupons to save you money and time — two things we all need more of. In May, we’ll introduce a redesigned newspaper that will be easier and more fun to read. That doesn’t mean we won’t hit a few speed bumps along the way. Our recent reporting of crime in Downtown and Old Town led us to a meeting with merchants concerned about the effects of the coverage on the image of the business districts. We discussed our shared goals of commerce and community, opening a long-needed dialogue. Two weeks ago, we merged the weekly Motoring section into the Friday newspaper. Arts & Entertainment is now often part of the main news section. With our streamlined news staff, there may be times we can’t be at every community event or meeting. We’ll need your help in letting us know about things going on in your neighborhood or group, and you can always share your news, photos and events directly with readers through myAuburn on Auburnjournal.com. It’s really quite easy. I’m not an economist, but I’m guessing the next six months will be as turbulent as the past six. More tough decisions will be necessary. Like you, our resiliency will be tested, and we’ll do our best every day to provide the critical news and information you need. And when you read something you don’t agree with, let us know with a phone call or e-mail. The Journal and generations of readers have cherished an exchange of ideas for 137 years, and we plan to for years to come. We need you more than ever.