In the latest cutback stretching the definition of “daily newspaper,” The Bellingham Herald announced that it will only print two editions per week starting Jan. 29.
This is part of a broad trend of newspapers reducing print frequency and delivery as they pivot toward the internet. To survive on the pennies available online, after losing dollars they used to make in print, nearly all have cut spending across the enterprise.
As noted in the State of Local News report by Northwestern University’s Medill School, metro dailies have also “curtailed print circulation outside the metro area, further limiting their ability to inform residents about statewide issues.”
The report cited Alliance of Audited Media data that 504 papers tracked by the group lost almost a million subscribers over the last year. Overall print circulation fell to 10.2 million, down from more than 50 million in 2005.
Across Washington and Oregon, The Seattle Times is the only local newspaper still printing seven days a week.
In Bellingham, The Herald will publish digital editions seven days a week but only produce Wednesday and “Sunday” print editions. The paper dropped its Saturday print edition in 2019.
I put “Sunday” in quotation marks because that edition won’t arrive on Sunday, because The Herald began using the U.S. Postal Service for delivery in June.
As stated in The Herald’s Nov. 30 announcement, “The Sunday newspaper will arrive on Saturday.”
Some days it could be a Monday edition, if the mail is slow. But the Sunday paper is cherished by subscribers so the tortured branding continues.
There’s been little pushback from readers, the paper’s newly hired senior editor, Scot Heisel, told me.
“I expected more of a response. It’s been kind of muted so far,” he said.
Heisel expects to hear more when the change takes effect. As a former page designer he likes print but sees more and more news being consumed online.
“It just makes sense to spend more of our focus on the digital product at this point,” he said.
The Herald’s newsroom has five full-time reporters and is hiring a sixth.
The McClatchy-owned paper faces new competition from Cascadia Daily, a for-profit Bellingham outlet that launched in early 2022 and produces weekly print and daily digital editions.
Cascadia aims to launch upgrades by the end of January, including new mobile and online platforms and e-editions, and is adding staff.
Ron Judd, Cascadia’s executive editor, told me via email that he concurs with a sentiment Heisel shared with readers: “If you aren’t a subscriber, please consider being a part of the solution. A growing community deserves a strong local news source. The future of our community depends on it.”
Midwest startups: The American Journalism Project, a nonprofit helping finance and launch nonprofit news startups, on Tuesday announced the launches of Signal Akron in Ohio and Mirror Indy in Indiana.
Signal Akron is the second newsroom launched by Signal Ohio and Mirror Indy is the first launched by Free Press Indiana. The two organizations raised more than $26 million, AJP CEO Sarabeth Berman said in the announcement.
Holiday layoffs: The Daily Beast reports that several big outlets are “poised to suffer through a final wave of layoffs.” It cited a November Challenger, Gray & Christmas report that found nearly 20,000 media jobs were cut this year. New cuts include about a dozen New Yorker staffers, nine Los Angeles Times video journalists and an unspecified number at Yahoo News, which is shutting its “In The Know” site “which curated news for Generation Z and millennial audiences.”
AI dilemma for news?: New academic research found an “overwhelming majority” of readers want publishers to tell them when artificial intelligence shaped news stories, Nieman Lab reports. But the study also found that when readers see stories labeled as AI generated, they trust those news outlets less.
The title of the paper, by Benjamin Toff at the University of Minnesota and Felix Simon at the Oxford Internet Institute, seems to include an answer: “‘Or they could just not use it?’: The paradox of AI disclosure for audience trust in news.”
Guardian guidance: Editors at The Guardian, one of the world’s most read newspapers, told staff it cannot sign open letters or public petitions about issues that could create the appearance of bias. This came after at least 25 of its Australia journalists signed a letter calling for more skepticism of Israel in Gaza war coverage, Australia’s Financial Review reported.
“Although this may be well-intentioned, unfortunately it can be perceived as a potential conflict of interest that could hamper our ability to report the news in a fair and fact-based way,” the editors said, per the report. “It has resulted in unwarranted scrutiny of Guardian journalism and accusations that our journalists and our journalism may be biased.”
This follows a Semafor report that union leaders at The Wall Street Journal and potentially The New York Times are pushing back on calls for the parent union, the NewsGuild, to release a statement supporting a Gaza cease-fire. The Journal leaders said in a letter that taking public positions on news events they cover damages confidence in them and fuels “the misconception that reporters are advocates rather than observers.”
This is excerpted from the free, weekly Voices for a Free Press newsletter. Sign up to receive it at the Save the Free Press website, st.news/SavetheFreePress.
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