Getting your news from the Internet

Published 4:51 pm Friday, March 27, 2009

It’s becoming more and more apparent that within a few years, the news that we absorb on the events of the day will be less and less from the printed page.

Daily, the Internet is taking over the role of the daily newspaper.

Good case in point is what’s happening now in Denver. A few weeks ago, it was announced that The Rock Mountain News was folding. Hundreds of people lost their jobs, and of course an entire news gathering cadre was no longer on the beat.

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That leaves Denver, once a two newspaper town, with only The Denver Post.

The Rocky, as it was affectionately referenced, was a tabloid newspaper. It was thick and heavy with news and advertising, and because of its tabloid format, easily held and read. I never understood why most newspapers shunned the tabloid style. From a readership standpoint, the tabloid was a neat fit.

What’s happening in Denver involves The Rocky’s former news staff. They are organizing a complete Web site focusing on local news, put together by a professional staff of writers and gatherers, some 150 staff people in all. If it comes about, no other news Web site will be like it and it may become a prototype for more to come.

Their goal is to sign up 50,000 monthly subscribers at about $6 a month, cheaper by the year or half year. Subscription pledges are now being taken, and if they reach their goal by May 4, your credit card will be charged.

I pledged a six-month subscription.

You can get an idea of what they have in mind by going to their organizing Web site:

It’s not the May 4 version yet, but it will give you an idea on the depth of coverage they have planned.

Depending on your point of view, it’s either scary or a daring adventure on what these journalists have in mind. It could be the wave of the future as print journalism declines.

This week I phoned a former colleague when we worked together in the newspaper in Grand Junction, Colo. Gary Massaro was just beginning his newspaper career, in the 1970s, honing his skills into becoming a very talented writer. Gary, a columnist for The Rocky Mountain News, of course, is now out of a job.

“What are you doing,” I asked him by phone this week, contacting him midday and midweek at home. “I’m sitting on my back deck, drinking a beer and smoking a cigar.” he said with little else to occupy his time.

A 22-year-veteran columnist with The Rocky, now Gary is waiting to see how their news and Web site experiment will unfold May 4.

An even more unique idea unfolding is the possible lack of advertising.

“If we can get our goal of subscribers, we won’t need any advertising,” Massaro said. “We are thinking of sponsors rather than advertisers,” he said.

Well, The Rocky is gone, but these staff people are hoping they can keep the spirit alive. The Rocky is gone and another newspaper bit the dust this week, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The newspaper lost $14 million last year. But they have a Web version of the newspaper, which will continue, manned by a skeleton crew of news staffers.

Most newspapers have an on-line version but most will admit revenue from advertising can’t compare in volume from the once profitable printed page. Hence professional news people are not as abundant as on the big city newsrooms.

Another big loser is The San Francisco Chronicle. Predictions are it will be next.

In Detroit, the newspapers there are printing only a few days a week for home delivery. Get abbreviated versions only from newsstands.

In San Diego, Calif., the Union-Tribune, once valued at $1 billion, just sold for under $50 million, a fire-sale bargain for investors who bought it, after its huge drop in value. The new owners said the first thing they would do would be to cut costs and staff.

As long ago as I can remember, there was always a newspaper in our house, many times two a day. My early tastes went to the comics—Smoky Stover, The Katzenjammer Kids, Mandrake the Magician, The Phantom, Prince Valiant, Popeye and a host of others now long absent. Even today, to get Sunday off to a good start, I hit the comic section first, a lighthearted warming up before digging into the hard stuff.

The Piranha Club is a killer.

Today’s younger generation is growing up under the influence of the Internet. That’s where they get their news. And as more and more young readers come on-line, the daily newspaper as we know it today, may be a fading memory, a small historical footnote.

Hang on to our concept of weekly or bi-weekly community newspapers. They will probably be around much longer.