Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007 | Scroll down the voiceofsandiego.org’s front page and you’ll find an editorial entitled “Feeling Good About the Future of Journalism.” It is a good editorial and very unusual. Almost everything one reads about journalism today is negative.
The decline of print newspapers is precipitous. Go back just over a decade along our coastline and you find a bounteous crop of newspapers from San Diego to San Francisco, all thriving in California’s growth and sunshine.
The newly-merged Union-Tribune was close to 400,000 in daily circulation, and the Orange County Register was neck and neck with the U-T. The L.A. Times had brought in a new CEO whose goal was 1.5 million circulation. The Santa Barbara News-Press was thriving under ownership of The New York Times. The San Jose Mercury News was the flagship of Knight Ridder, and San Francisco was still served by its historic papers, the Chronicle and the Examiner.
Today all these newspapers are in some kind of trouble: either dead (the Examiner), sold (the Mercury-News), up for sale (the Times), plundered and destroyed (the News-Press) or laying off staff, reducing coverage and losing circulation (the Union-Tribune, Register and Chronicle). And that’s just California’s coastline. The same phenomenon is repeating itself across the nation.
One question is what will replace the printed daily press? The voiceofsandiego.org model already is attracting nationwide attention, which explains the optimism of the Voice editorial. Online newspapers, replacing what the bloggers call the “dead-tree press,” are the future. Even those print newspapers doing well, like The New York Times and newly-sold Wall Street Journal, are increasingly relying on their online editions.
But the deeper question is this: What will become of the journalistic “mission?”