Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Do papers matter?

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its last edition today, after more than 146 years in print. I really hate to say this, but Tuesday's front page, at right, is the best I've seen in a very long time. You can't quite duplicate the impact of a 14"x23" photo online, or in an iPhone or in a Kindle.

But does it matter?

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer was recognized by Harvard University's Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers just on Monday for its series “Young Guns,” about gang violence "from the perspective of gang members themselves. This approach required the reporters and editors to verify the accuracy of statements made by minors and gang members and tackle the dangers of glorifying gang violence. Staff reporter Claudia Rowe and photographer Mike Kane produced the series together with designer John Nelson, news editor Jennifer Johnson and copy editors Bill Fink and Christina Okeson. After the series ran, Seattle’s mayor announced a $9 million initiative to curb youth violence."

A much smaller P-I survives online. Its photo archives are impressive.

Similarly, last month, the Rocky Mountain News of Denver closed its doors 55 days shy of its 150 anniversary.

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

Both the Rocky and the P-I were big dailies in two-newspaper towns, so comparisons and market studies are bound to follow.

In the meantime, in case you are wondering what happens when a town loses one of its papers, below is a study by Princetown University. Here's the study's abstract:

"The Cincinnati Post published its last edition on NewYear’s Eve 2007, leaving the Cincinnati Enquirer as the only daily newspaper in the market. The next year, fewer candidates ran for municipal office in the suburbs most reliant on the Post, incumbents became more likely to win re-election, and voter turnout fell. We exploit a difference-in-difference strategy–comparing changes in outcomes before and after the Post’s closure in suburbs where the newspaper offered more or less intensive coverage–and the fact that the Post’s closing date was fixed 30 years in advance to rule out some non-causal explanations for these results. Although our findings are statistically imprecise, they demonstrate that newspapers–even underdogs such as the Post, which had a circulation of just 27,000 when it closed– can have a substantial and measurable impact on public life." (Emphasis mine)

Do Newspapers Matter?

And here's Alan D. Mutter's take on it.

Just sayin'