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The state of newspapers

Watching segments of the Frontline episode on the changing dynamic of newspapers and reading the related texts was nothing new for me. The material wasn't boring, but I've followed the continuing decline of newspapers where nothing seems to work to make them profitable again.

To elaborate on the discussion proposed Wednesday, I believe local ownership is necessary for news quality and management. Avista took over the Star Tribune without much media experience, and the paper has since filed for bankruptcy, compared to its McClatchy days when it weathered the storm beating on other papers. Corporations operate nationally and have difficulty targeting local demographics; they have to cater to a more generic group.

However, even if all ownership was local, the future looks bleak for newspapers. Two fatal errors was lack of anticipation for new media and offering all its content for free. That's not to say readers should pay for it, but a model where bloggers and other aggregates would pay a fee to link a newspaper's stories online would certainly help bring dollars in. However, solving declining readership is even tougher. While stations and websites do link to newspapers, the speed that news can be transmitted often makes newspapers obsolete as far as getting there first. By the time you read the morning headlines, you likely heard about all of them either on TV or online.

The whirlwind continues to blow and the outlook is grim. For now, most media outlets will likely limp through the recession until things get better, and that is a serious threat to the quality of journalism.