Having heard that 4 a.m. slap on the driveway, at 6:45 a.m., I dutifully went out to secure today’s Chicago Tribune. As I grabbed the paper, aside from the typically ripped plastic sheath, I was immediately struck by just how light it was. Their Wednesday and Thursday editions used to have more heft than this Sunday paper did.
Then I scanned my two-block street in search of more subscribers and saw but one other paper ensconced on a driveway apron. There was time when at least 10 of my 13 neighbors had a blue bundle waiting to be retrieved on Sunday morning. I’m sure some of ‘em get the e-paper, but with Net ads bringing in less than a tenth of their print counterparts, it’s not a sustainable business model.
As I separated the wheat from the chaff – don’t need Rides, Real Estate, or Business, and the Arts section has been useless for years – I realized I could get through what’s left in 10 short minutes. There was a time when I’d digest the Sunday paper throughout the entire week.
And the ads, or lack of them, was even more depressing. There was a time when you’d find flyers from:
- J. C. Penney
- Best Buy
- Bed, Bath & Beyond
- Home Depot
- Office Max
- Circuit City
- Barnes & Noble
- Various mattress stores
and more. Granted some of those businesses are out of business, but today’s Trib contained just:
and a smattering of flyers from smaller stores like Walgreen’s, CVS, and Michael’s. And that kind of revenue hemorrhaging simply can’t continue. The Sun-Times already announced there’s just a 60 percent chance they’ll be around in two years, but I believe that’s overly optimistic. Of the 19 non-columnist news stories in today’s Fox Valley Daily Herald, just six covered local issues. The vast majority are wire service national news that you could read on dozens of websites.
What we’re witnessing is the slow demise of an industry we can’t afford to lose. And much like Bruce Willis in ‘The Sixth Sense,’ those publishers and editors don’t even realize they’re already dead and/or irrelevant. And ain’t it ironic that the folks charged with critiquing you and me, like vampires, can’t even see their own reflection in the mirror.
Of course, some of my adoring fans say my consistent criticism of my print media journalistic brethren is borne of sour grapes from my departure from the Sun-Times, but nothing could be further from the truth. In the era of Trump, we need local dedicated journalism more than ever, but newspapers are so mired in the Einsteinian definition of insanity that they need to be shaken out of their inexplicable malaise.
Who knew the Sunday paper could be this depressing?