The other day a lawyer told us that Key West does not need another newspaper.
A lawyer? I laughed so hard I almost tore an abdominal muscle, but thankfully, Key West has a slew of attorneys to handle my problems.
True, the southernmost city does have a few publications, but as tourist destination and small community with major issues, the more information the better.
But this is not a column about the merits of the Key West publishing groups.
While lounging on a dive boat out of Key West, I was eavesdropping on another journalist’s interview with County Commissioner Mario DiGennaro. Media from around the country had just finished surfacing with huge array of underwater camera and film equipment and the standard questions were flying at DiGennaro and Vandenberg godfather Joe Weatherby.
A lady who appeared to be near the end of her career finished grilling DiGennaro and immediately launched into a verbal op ed piece on the demise of the newsroom.
Her words went something like this: “We are down 50 percent… Moral is at an all time low…I don’t understand…we are doing everything exactly the same.”
When I replied with, “That’s funny, our numbers are up this year,” she smirked at me and said, “Well, then you must be a weekly.”
Her investigative journalism skills must have been at their peak. I had no expensive camera hookup, and did not conduct a single interview.
“That’s right. We are a locally owned community newspaper and every time I put DiGennaro’s name in the paper our ad revenue for the next week dips 20 percent.”
(Having known DiGennaro long before his days on the dais, we can enjoy the joke, but that old journalist looked at me in horror – much to my own delight.)
Today media mogul Rupert Murdoch announced plans to shut down The Londonpaper, a free publication out of England’s capital because the paper “fallen short of expectations.”
Mainstream papers around globe are shutting their doors and blaming everything from Craigslist to breaking Internet news sources like www.cnn.com or the www.drudgereport.com, or simply the economy in general.
For nearly a century, classified ad sales were the backbone of newspaper revenue, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the bottom line as late as 2000, but that number has been slashed in half just nine years later.
As paid classifieds have dwindled, breaking news is now disseminated over the internet and 24 hour news channels as instantly as it develops.
What are we to do? Adapt. Change the business plan and fill in the local stuff. Develop stories into features after all the facts are in.
Newspapers are here to stay – especially, small community papers that can cover the news in your backyard, help a charity, or simply publish local stories that are both entertaining and informative.
That is what we do. Please feel free to send us your comments or suggestions. This is your paper.
Key West Bureau Chief