Print Retreats to Print

The Scene from Whitewater, Wisconsin Local print publications are struggling, and so they’ve decided to retreat to print publishing. See Twilight (Part 1 of a Series).

At the Gazette, they’ve established a high paywall (after one three articles viewed per month), and as for ambitions for Walworth County, one need only consider what happened to that publisher’s WalworthCountyToday.com:

At the Daily Union, in a print editorial for Friday 1.12.18 (“It’s a brave new world for Daily Union staffers”) one reads that “[i]t’s a brave new world for some of us old J-School grads weaned on the axiom that ‘the advertising department makes the money, the news department spends the money … and ne’er the twain shall meet.’ ”

A few remarks:

Did someone say dinner?

1. Walworth County. Walworth County’s an arid, inhospitable media market (to the extent it’s even a market). It’s also a place that expects individual attention. The Gazette‘s failure to make a go of a tailored presence in Walworth County limits significantly their influence in the county. A high paywall for a Janesville-based paper makes matters worse.

The DU‘s couple-of-times-a-month offer to Whitewater of stenography in the place of reporting is (and should be) embarrassing to all concerned.

2. Advertising’s running the show. The DU‘s acknowledgement of dependency is honest, but sad, too. Every local official who can pressure even one advertiser now has an incentive to try – the paper’s conceded that approach has a good chance of working. See Thanks, City of Jefferson!: “All of these local papers are afraid of municipal officials (and far more afraid of hyper-cautions advertisers). If an advertiser gets the sniffles, the publisher comes down with double pneumonia.”

3. More of What Ails Ya. A drowning man tries to swim farther from shore, or a dehydrated woman refuses water: that’s what it’s like to reduce digital, or to succumb to even greater advertiser leverage.

4. A Public Records & Open Meetings Foundation. In an area with an ailing press, that’s getting weaker, an approach relying on sound principles of open government matters more than ever. See Daylight (Part 3 in a Series). These papers won’t manage this vital oversight; its absence is a danger to a well-ordered politics.

(More to come, in this regard.)