I don't accept the "death of newspapers" storyline.
Call me crazy. It wouldn't be the first time someone did.
But I don't accept the "death of newspapers" storyline.
Some of them are certainly closing.
The Rocky Mountain News is now closed. The Tuscon Citizen plans to follow suit March 21 if no buyer steps in. The San Fransisco Chronicle is on life support.
I have walked through the cold, dark office where a newspaper once operated.
I'm no Pollyanna.
But I don't think the carnage will be as widespread as the naysayers would have you believe.
There are industry-specific problems. The Internet has put a dent in advertising revenue. There are also major economic problems that are affecting every industry -- including all of those who depend on advertising revenue.
This is not the first time in history a newspaper has closed.
There used to be more than one significant daily newspaper in most metropolitan areas. When revenues lagged, the more successful paper often bought out its competitor. These buyouts and mergers allowed the newspapers to operate with much leaner budgets while increasing advertising market share.
This recession is deeper than those in the recent past, and it is hitting portions of the economy that make it even more detrimental to newspapers. Realtors, auto dealers and banks make up a significant portion of a typical newspaper's revenue stream.
The recession really began with the bursting of the real estate bubble in many markets and the subsequent crash of the credit markets.
Those two factors fueled an economic downturn and left newspapers whose profits had been steady swimming in a pool of red ink.
But many newspapers are still among the top businesses in their communities. There aren't many overflowing bank accounts, but the vast majority will survive to thrive another day.
Why do I have such a rosy outlook? It's simple.
Many banks have closed, but no one is heralding the end of all banking. That idea is absurd.
People need financial institutions. Their services have great value to customers.
Newspapers also produce a valuable product -- especially community newspapers. Our definition of news doesn't often focus on faraway lands.
Community newspapers record local history as it happens. They tell the story of when residents are born, when they die and most things they do in between. Newspapers celebrate successes and mourn losses. They inform, educate and entertain readers.
Newspapers also act as a community bulletin board. Author Arthur Miller said it well, "A good newspaper, I suppose, is a community talking to itself."
Is this a difficult time for the newspaper industry? Very difficult.
But those tough times aren't just being felt by one sector. Ask banks, retailers, television stations, even the aerospace industry how tough this economy is.
Everyone is struggling together searching for the light at the end of this dark tunnel.
Some newspapers, like some retailers will not make the cut.
This should be a source of concern for readers. If community newspapers fade away, there will be no one left to shoo foxes out of the hen houses.
Long time columnist Richard Kluger said, "Every time a newspaper dies, even a bad one, the country moves a little closer to authoritarianism."
Local government policies will go unchallenged. Residents won't even know what hit them until it is too late.
How many radio stations, Web sites and television stations send reporters to school board meetings, city council meetings or even local events?
I know times are tough. But I also know information has value.
Some newspapers that have leveraged their growth with debt or those who exist in the worst economies won't survive.
Most will fight to keep their heads above water and will emerge from this downturn and we will still be the best way to reach customers in the markets we serve.
Thomas Jefferson had a love-hate relationship with newspapers. He often said he didn't read them so he could remain happy. As a leader in a group of men forming what -- at the time -- was a radical new government, I bet he did face a lot of criticism.
But even though he often disagreed with the content in those early day news products, Jefferson wrote in a letter to a friend, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."
The death of newspapers would be bad for commerce because they do a great job of helping companies reach their customers. It would also be bad for people not involved in government because good decisions are rarely made when secrecy prevails. Without newspapers, local history would be unrecorded.
That's why I don't believe customers and advertisers will allow newspapers to go away. Where market forces and business decisions have forced closures, I expect that void to be filled.
Newspapers are an important part of our communities. When the local economy struggles, so do we. But when the economic recovery comes, we will still be there to tell the story that happy days are here again.