A reader wrote to ask what I thought of the outlook for the local press in 2017. I’d say that there will be no big changes in the year ahead: slowly declining last year, slowly declining this year. I’m supportive of media analyst Clay Shirky’s perspective. Although he writes about the national print press, his assessment of print generally is sound: that we’ve seen a period of sharp decline, will have period of stagnation, and then see another period of sharp decline at the end of the decade (‘fast, slow, fast’).
From my perspective, the only remaining value of local print publications is to get a sense of how local insiders think. See, The Last Inside Accounts. As a matter of serious coverage of stories, there’s nothing left. Anyone who wants a fulfilling career has, or quickly will, move on from the publications in the Whitewater area. Smart employees move on as soon as they can (and the stories from local newsrooms about those left behind are filled with accounts of disappointment, dysfunction, and delusion).
Local publishers would be better off limiting their print newspapers to two days (e.g., Sunday & Wednesday) and otherwise publishing only online. Anything more (and often even that much) is ecologically unsound as a waste of paper. There’s little future from print anywhere, and none locally.
For 2017, it’s business as usual for local newspapers, where business (in the broadest sense) is bad.