Spiral bound: Falling papers push Baliles to action

Madison Stone hoists the "Virginian of the Year" award her grandfather Baliles earned from the Virginia Press Association.

Calling the current financial plight of newspapers "disturbing," the head of UVA's Miller Center, Gerald Baliles, has announced that the Center will convene a symposium on the future of the industry. Specifically, Baliles said the Center hopes to discover how the shrinkage of newspaper reporting, which typically leads the coverage that follows in broadcast media, will affect government.

"Certainly, the business model is strained," said Baliles, "and we don't know what will replace it."

Baliles, a former Virginia governor, made his remarks Friday, March 20, after accepting an award as "Virginian of the Year" from the Virginia Press Association during the group's annual–- but, this year, shrunken–- convention.

"This is a celebratory evening, or should be," said Baliles.

Earlier in the day, during another Association event, the business news editor for the Associated Press was asked how the struggling industry should save itself.

"I wish I knew," said the AP's Fred Monyak. "It's as broken as the banking industry."


Not April Fools. My Aunt who lives north of Pittsburg and has enjoyed her mornings with the Pittsburg Post Gazette for over 40 years has just learned by letter, that as of April 1st no deliveries of the paper will be made either by subscription or to any retail outlets in the entire county which comprises several small towns. This is the end of an era she sadly said.

Death by a Thousand Cuts --"Post Offers Another Round of Buyouts"


Hawes Spencer mentioned this wonderful Jefferson quote on the Coy Barefoot show last Friday

from Baliles speech:
"It is often said in Charlottesville that employees of the University of Virginia are contractually obligated to quote Jefferson. A Jefferson quote is quite apt here --- and familiar:
The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and 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 highest service for our citizens is shining light on the actions of our elected officials, let there always be a place for the brave and valiant investigative journalists that dare to print the unvarnished truth.

Look, Governor Baliles, "what will replace it" is obvious: other media. There will always be a place for journalism in the written form (versus broadcast), but peoples' daily routines, the expense of paper and production, other avenues for advertisers, etc. have pushed the business model out the window. The Internet--God help us--has become the place of choice, where one can read either a short snappy news story, a breaking news story, or an in-depth report on a complex issue.

Now--and I am sure Mr. Spencer will concur--please don't pontificate about how one cannot trust the Internet, how its sources are questionable, etc. Anyone who has been involved in news stories as a subject or even a peripheral observer knows that every news story--whether in print or on a screen--is rife with omissions and, often, inaccuracies. Like all media, the reader must absorb with a critical mind.

TJ, your comment is a tad idealistic. However, I do not reject the importance of journalists in our society.

Here is a great topic about which Baliles should hold a summit: the redefining of the term "News" and "Journalists" in reference to their constitutional protections. So much media now has become more about entertainment, sensationalism and shaky sourcing. It is time that journalists be held to task and--possibly--have some of their journalistic protections questioned. The tests for libel perhaps should be expanded to a more broad definition, as "negligence" should be incorporated with malice. As in "I did not mean to hurt Mr. X by printing the story about him and his wife, but I only checked one shaky source and then ran with it."

As that great entertainer and actor Arsenio Hall once uttered: "Things that make you go 'hmmm.'"

This was my home town for many years. So sorry to see another print edition of a wonderful newspaper bite the dust.

Ann Arbor News To Publish Its Last Edition In July

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The Ann Arbor News will print its last edition in July and replace it with an online product.

In a letter published Monday, Publisher Laurel Champion said the 174-year-old daily newspaper is starting a new online media company called AnnArbor.com LLC and will share local news and information with the community.


NBTAG, I still believe there is an important place for print newspapers. My Aunt who lives on a very limited income, alone in a small town in Pa, has as one of her major life pleasures starting each morning with a cup of coffee reading the Pittsburg Post-Gazette. She doesn't own a computer and loves having the paper spread out on the table in front of her.

There certainly might be an important place for print media, but if the paper cannot operate profitably in a capitalist environment, then its place is moot. And--despite the comrades in Congress and on Pennsylvania Avenue--we still have a capitalist country.

There is a perfect storm of factors converging to cause the demise of so many papers: changes in public reading habits; increased expenses of paper, production and delivery; bad product (just look at what Media General produces!); reductions in advertising revenue as advertisers have better command of their client/prospect databases and can do more targeted advertising; the ease of access to the Internet; the snail-like pace at which newspapers can disseminate "news." Gosh, gee willikers, Ricky Nelson...what more do we need to itemize?

Now, I think some papers can operate profitably IF they change their format. Perhaps our august leader--Mr. Spencer--can speak to the success of The Hook and--assuming it is profitable--how he does it (realizing, of course, that is it a weekly free publication, so avoids many of the expenses of daily sub-only papers).

And Betty--as for your aunt--make sure no one leaves old jelly on that table. One of the real displeasures in life is laying your newspaper on a booger of old jelly or syrup!

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I assure you no jelly on her table. I have also heard that it is very difficult for news organizations to generate enough advertising revenue from internet only sites to support their staff.