Monday, September 26, 2011

Writing Off Readers

Plain Dealer Circulation Continues Decline
Today’s Plain Dealer carries the legally mandated annual statement of ownership, management and circulation. Total paid and or requested average daily circulation for the period ending September 15, 2011 fell last year below 260,000 to 259,993, or barely half of what it once boasted. This year’s figure represents almost an 11% decline in circulation since March 2009 when its reported circulation was 291,630.
Daily newspaper circulation is of course declining across the country, but as in other arenas, the implications for Greater Cleveland have special impact. Newspapers have traditionally served as a common denominator for the reporting and discussion of community news. The Plain Dealer has had this role almost exclusively since the demise of The Cleveland Press in 1982. Although it often performs the task abysmally, typically by what it fails to report — either fairly or at all — its continued decline as a common springboard for discussion is not healthy for northeast Ohio.
Editorial and publishing decisions made by the Plain Dealer’s parent company, Advance Publications Inc., which also owns the Sun Newspapers suburban area chain, have compounded this misfortune. Advance has effected the virtual journalistic redlining of every municipality in Cuyahoga County where the African Americans comprise forty percent or more.
The only literal exception to this redlining may be Richmond Heights, where, incredibly, this little blog has arguably done more independent, and accurate, reporting of key issues there in the past six months than either the Plain Dealer or the Sun Messenger.


Anonymous said...

The online content with the PD is awful. It is incomplete and the website not user-friendly. The are not being good public servants by being stingy with their content. And, no matter what that ted Diadum writes on Sunday, he needs to get the reader comments under control.

Anonymous said...

I disagree that "its decline as a common springboard for discussion is not healthy for Northeast Ohio." Since it has been so biased and so thoroughly revoked its mission to cover the complete community in a thoughtful way,Ii think its decline is not only healthy but essential for the health of the region. Its total demise would probably be a good thing — unless it changes direction radically. It needs to start by focusing on local news — all of it, from all parts of the community. Recycled news about television shows can be found everywhere — and the PD has nothing special to add. It should be focusing on local artists of all types instead. It needs to focus on political stories that have a real impact on our lives — and explain why. That includes local stories that are often some of the most dramatic and revealing. It needs to abandon its insipid and meaningless candidate endorsements in favor of providing some meaty information about candidates — not just the one it's decided will/must win. They also need to replace one county writer with a competent one. What's happening now in Cuyahoga is too important to have it covered by someone who doesn't seem to know the basics. They also need to reign in Kevin O'Brien, to not let him spew unsupported GOP talking points and call it a column. He should be required to develop an argument for his viewpoints.

As for the website, it's clear they've made a decision to go for the loudmouth, cynical bully boys and sports fans – and that is what you see when you log on. Try find an arts story — just try. It's nonstop sports — and then they say that is because that is what people respond to. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Richard said...

@ Anons.
I didn't really want to get too much into since that it is a semi-separate beast. I certainly agree that the comments there are generally atrocious. But in a way that proves my point about the decline in shared space evidenced in the PD's declining circulation. Even though access is filtered, controlled, and otherwise limited, letters to the editor do offer a modest public square. The unomderated incivility of commenters means that few thoughtful people will use that space to share perspectives.

What is needed are new spaces. Many are springing up here, there, and everywhere. Hopefully some will achieve critical mass AND promote standards that are more open and welcoming. But I do not believe that we as a community will prosper with less reporting.

Anonymous said...

I don't think we need less reporting — but we do need to get over the dated paradigm that there is a respected newspaper of record from which most people will get all the facts they need. The PD has long since abandoned its pretense of doing reporting in favor of doing blatant advocacy, usually for the corporate business community. I think people we will have plenty of new news sources, but some people still cling wistfully to an old model.