by NCSL Communications Division
On Friday morning, the last edition of the Rocky Mountain News was delivered to subscribers across the Denver-Metro area. Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps has owned the News since 1926. In late 2008, Scripps announced plans to sell the paper if no acceptable offers emerged by late January. No bids were received and the paper has now closed its doors 55 days shy of its 150th birthday.
Denver has now joined the ranks of other large metropolitan cities, like Houston, that have become "one paper towns." Cities like Pittsburgh (video on the left hand side) and Seattle may be just a few short steps behind the Mile High City.
But who is reading newspapers these days? This is part of the problem. The Pew Research Center for People and the Press released a study confirming the downward slide of newspaper readership:
“The trend is unmistakable: Fewer Americans are reading print newspapers as more turn to the Internet for their news. And while the percentage of people who read newspapers on line is growing rapidly, especially among younger generations, that growth has not offset the decline in print readership.“ Here is a link to the full report.
Newspapers, television and radio stations are not only shutting their doors, they are also laying off hundreds of employees, with the "capitol beat" taking one of the largest hits. Hundreds of reporters who use to walk the steps of the legislature are now being replaced with reporters who cannot find the state capitol (sound familiar?) or not replaced at all. This has been an issue The Thicket has covered since last year (Who is Left in the Media, Anchor, News Coverage Away).
Scott Cooper with OK Gazette published an article earlier this week that highlighted the number of cuts on the capitol beat. Coopers goes on in his article to determine who would be the biggest loser with fewer reporters covering state legislatures. The public? You bet! The problem of why newspapers are closing their doors and what that means to the watchdogs of our society is evident. It's not clear what can be done to keep newspapers afloat, stop reporters from becoming extinct and open transparency in government.
In the May magazine of State Legislatures Magazine, we will examine this issue and find out if bloggers and the cyber world can pick up their coverage of state legislatures where "print" has dried up.