Kevin Slimp, Opinion: The most frightening news in American journalism: It’s probably not what you think


by Kevin Slimp

Canadian newsprint is not the enemy — tariffs are,”
shouts David Chavern, CEO of the News Media Alliance (NMA).

Please accept my apology. It’s a bad habit of mine, looking past the corporate veneer in search of ulterior motives.

I come by it honestly. I spent a few years away from newspapers, as communications director for a major group. Nobody was better at getting “news” into the papers and on the TV news. “Spinning” news is a gift, although not an admirable one.

It’s hard, though. I’ve spent years watching big newspaper, uhm, media groups proclaim “Move away from print or die!” It makes me wonder why everyone has such an interest in newsprint all of a sudden.

Sorry, I’m digressing. That’s another bad habit.

For all the “press” newsprint is getting these days and, trust me, I’m worried about the state of newsprint, it’s not the most dangerous enemy of American newspapers. Not even close.

What’s the biggest danger? You need look no further than today’s New York Times, or the April 6, 2018 edition of The Denver Post.

What’s the biggest threat to newspapers today? That’s a hard question with a simple answer: Corporate greed.

I read about one large group last week that increased editions of one paper from weekly to twice each week. Their communication director, whoever she/he is, did a good job. I read about the generosity of this group, all the while knowing they’ve been slashing newspaper staff the past couple of years.

A corporate group in Canada made national news by increasing the number of reporters at their papers in the western part of the country. My question is this: If a person were to compare the number of reporters at these papers to the number of reporters at the same papers five years ago, how would they compare? I don’t know the answer, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

All I have to do is drive past the almost-empty parking lot of my hometown paper, owned by Gannett, to get an idea of what is happening inside those walls. I feel for the people working there. I really do.

Ten years ago, I often found myself in debates with corporate newspaper representatives, university deans and other newspaper “experts” concerning the future of the industry. I often felt like I was on an island alone, as I shared my opinion that yes, there would be printed newspapers beyond the year 2014.

I was called naive, misinformed and misguided, and those were the nice terms.

You ask me to name the most dangerous threat to American journalism? I don’t need to answer that question. Anyone who looks at what has happened to our industry over the past decade – as venture capitalists began to take over our biggest newspapers, first, then moved on to grab as many community papers as quickly as possible, while they were ripe for the picking –  should be able to see for themselves.

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