Chapel Hill News down to a skeleton crew

Fiona Morgan at the Independent reports that a number of newsroom staff have accepted the buyout offers that the McClatchy-owned News & Observer offered last month.

Among them is Samiha Khanna, who covers Durham County and its school system; Matt Dees, a former Durham city reporter who was recently transferred to the Orange County bureau; and Cheryl Johnston Sadgrove, who covers Orange County government. Until the newsroom is reorganized to adjust for these losses, that leaves one Orange County and four Durham reporters.

- Triangulator: N&O loses more reporters, 9/22/08

I still can't understand the business model that has them eliminating the one uniquely valuable thing that the paper has. No-one's going to buy the paper just to pick up wire reports and local classifieds. Or as McClatchy's CEO said:

“We always say to our papers, you challenge is no matter what, the paper must improve. It always drove me crazy where in a downturn, news hold cuts were made and the paper got worse. And I always thought restaurants don’t make food worse in a downturn. Car companies don’t make cars less safe in a downturn. Why is it OK to make a newspaper worse in a recession? That’s your excuse for making your product worse? It makes no sense.”

- from interview with Dr. Phil Meyer in his book The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age, via The Real Paul Jones » Vanishing Newspaper, local edition, 12/23/07

Uh.... yeah.



Both the Herald and the N and O run some of the same photos and AP wire stories for national and international news.  If they do not have coverage of local news, then why even look at two different (are they really different) papers? 



I think newspapers, since they are driven by the need for advertising dollars, have restricted their range of coverage over the years to the point where they don't even see all the unexplored territory out there. Certainly on national news, the comparison between what is really happening (that can be found and confirmed all over the web) and the sanitized news that is reported is schizophrenic.

This has affected the local coverage as well, as corporations have enlarged their scope of influence to just about everywhere. Look at the skewed coverage of state energy issues, the hands-off treatment that corporate control of universities gets, the rah-rah promotion of the military presence in NC, etc.

So many great stories that would help shape a more realistic understanding of our world are also the ones deemed too risky from an advertising revenue perspective. So the papers eat themselves.

Could small businesses and curious readers that don't have a vested interest in the corporate status quo support a newspaper that courageously reports on the real news? I think that the Carrboro Citizen is doing this to an extent. But what about larger regional papers? If no-one has the guts to try, we'll never know.

By the time I read the N&O every day, I've already heard all of the news on NPR.  Yet it's part of my morning routine.  I read the Chapel Hill News and Carrboro Citizen not only for local coverage but for local voices.  They rarely disappoint.  There's something about newspaper that sends me.  Is it the ads?  Often.  The smell of ink?  Maybe.  The writing?  Usually.  The reading?  Yes. 

The demise of newspaper in general  makes me very sad.  Veteran editors and commetators much older than I are taking this even harder.  I can't stand scrolling through on-line reports... yet I scroll through OP all day long!  


"I still can't understand the business model that has them eliminating the one uniquely valuable thing that the paper has."

Because what is going on is not part of anyone's model. It's the result of the panic of a crushing debt load no longer serviceable by McClatchy's revenue stream taking down the best journalists in their company regardless of how the specific newspaper they were attached to is doing financially.

 And by the way, The Daily Tar Heel just added 170 new staffers to its newsroom operations.

-- Kevin Schwartz

Rather than weigh in on The Citizen and the future of newspapers as I usually do in such threads, I put together an OP blog post soliticitng suggestions on how to grow The Citizen into a larger paper. We know we need to expand and we think the community will support that. There are a lot of questions to answer, though, so please take a minute to help us figure this one out.

Here's the link.

Personally, I bid a sad farewell to Clara Powers, who has brightly greeted me since the first time I walked through the doors of the Chapel Hill News. We'll miss you Clara!

Both the Chapel Hill News and the Durham News, as an insert in the Saturday News and Observer, arrive at our household. Particularly interesting in this weekend's edition of the latter was the column by editor Rob Waters, who announced that he was being summoned to work in Raleigh again, and that:  

"Succeeding me at The Durham News helm is my colleague Mark Schultz. He is a first-rate journalist who came to The N&O in 2005 from the Herald-Sun, where he was Metro editor. So unlike me, he'll start the job with a broad and deep knowledge about Durham.

Presumably Mark Schultz will address this move in an upcoming issue of the Chapel Hill News. 

Link to the complete column:

What's worse: I can't find any mention of this in the CH News, N&O Orange County page, nor the OrangeChat blog.  What gives, Mark? Dave? Anyone???

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