Struggling newspapers seek solutions

The struggling economy is obviously affecting our schools and our communities, but now it is also affecting how we learn about our world. The popularity of the internet coupled with the economic recession is causing newspapers to seriously reconsider how news should be presented to the public. The economic recession has caused advertising revenue to decrease as fewer companies are able to give money to newspapers. Also, any debts that newspapers might have accrued before the world economy spiraled downwards now seem impossible to pay. Both of these were causes of media giant Tribune Co. filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Tribune Co. operates the Chicago Tribune, along with multiple other local media outlets. The company had restructured to go private and the Chairman kept piling on the debt. Then, revenue plummeted. Chairman of Tribune Co. Sam Zell called this a “perfect storm.” The severity of newspapers’ troubles is compounded by the fact that many Americans are turning away from print and television media and using the internet as a way to become informed about society. A Pew Research study found that the percent of Americans who reported reading a newspaper the day before dropped from 58% in 1993 to 34% in 2008. During this same period of time, the internet unsurprisingly skyrocketed in popularity. From virtually zero percent depending on the internet for news in the mid-1990’s when internet was still very young and not commonly used by the average American, to 37% in The problem with more Americans choosing to log onto the proverbial “tubes” is that it is much more difficult for newspapers to create revenue from online readers. Most media outlets have their content online for free, with the only revenue coming from advertising. Not having the added revenue of selling actual copies of newspapers does not help, especially when the economic situation is also causing advertising revenues to plummet. At The Tribune , the local paper that publishes The WEB , the rise of the internet as a means to become informed has not negatively affected the circulation of the paper, but the economic recession has caused The Tribune to see less advertising revenue. " As local people and businesses have been affected, that in turn has affected our advertising volume and revenue in both retail and classifieds," said Alexandra Hayne, the editor of The Tribune . " Tribune circulation has not been affected adversely by the advent of digital news delivery. Print circulation has been holding pretty steady. Interest in our websites, however, continues to grow." The Tribune has been forced to make some changes to compensate for lost revenue. This is one reason why The WEB is noticeably smaller this year than in past years. " So far, we have taken steps to reduce expenses, the most visible of which were a staff reduction and discontinuing several popular columnists. There will most likely be other measures we must take to cut our expenses further," Hayne said. The hardships and cuts faced by The Tribune seem to be very representative of many other smaller news organizations. " Smaller news organizations, however, are in a stronger position than large ones," Hayne said. "News organizations in smaller communities do not face as much competition as exists in larger markets. In Ames, for example, The Tribune is still the best and most trusted place for local news and advertising." Although it may be a tough time for newspapers, people are still increasingly interested in the world in which they live. Not just the internet, but new ways to receive news will also be important for the future. " I think technology – particularly mobile technology – will continue to offer new ways for people to get information and learn about their world. News organizations will offer an array of products on multiple platforms, including print and digital, to meet the needs of news consumers and the advertisers who want to reach them. One thing I don’t see diminishing is the appetite for information. It will continue to grow," Hayne said. The decrease in revenue for newspapers has hurt us locally, but we still aim to keep the Ames community informed about events and students at Ames High. The WEB will continue to share students’ perspectives of current events, although more content will now be hosted online at our website, In the last decade, we have witnessed what seems to be a revolution in the way that people become informed. As news companies continue to hurt with there being no end in sight to our economic troubles, and with the Internet only becoming more and more popular, we could be in for more big changes in the media industry in the next decade.