Bad news for news
...and a link to our Monday Lunch chat about the new Zimpleman College of Business (with the Zimplemans)
Oddly, you will not read about this story in The Des Moines Register.
Investigative reporter Joshua Benton, who founded Nieman Lab in 2008, published a devastating report (click the link) on Gannett, owner of The Des Moines Register. Nieman Labs covers stories about the future of journalism.
Ironically, I saw the piece the same day I subscribed to the daily PRINT edition of the newspaper, once again bucking a trend of avalanche proportions.
Benton uses descriptors such as ‘vaporizing,’ ‘evaporated,’ and ‘death by a thousand cuts’ in his report on the state of the newspaper chain, now considered the largest in the country since Gatehouse media merged with Gannett.
The numbers are grim.
From the third quarter of 2018 to the third quarter of 2022, The Des Moines Sunday Register circulation has declined by 69.3%. Every Gannett paper saw a decline of at least 52%. By contrast, The Detroit Free Press apparently performed better in a group of nine papers Benton selected to cover for the story by ‘only’ losing 52.4% of its circulation.
Another irony, newspapers are not reporting the story of their struggles. Gatehouse editors are told any questions about the Neiman Labs story should be forwarded to a corporate communications person. My query went unanswered.
Community newspapers are taken for granted until suddenly - poof - they are gone or purchased by an out-of-town company, and their local paper is no longer local.
I became a print subscriber to the daily Des Moines Register again because terrific people work valiantly with limited resources to do their best to report the news. Of course, it isn’t the thick thump landing at the front door it once was. But that’s not the fault of the folks who remain.
Of the countless bills being rushed through the Iowa Legislature, a bill just passed the Senate to eliminate the payment for publishing legal notices in local papers. Read Jared Strong’s story in the Iowa Capital Dispatch: https://iowacapitaldispatch.com/2023/03/08/bill-would-eliminate-public-notice-requirement-in-newspapers/
It is one more step toward canceling legitimate news and information availability. Is that the point?
And one more step toward killing small towns. The payment to publish legal notices keeps some of our local papers alive. Who will cover the City Council meetings? County Supervisors? What will the ultimate cost to the taxpayer if no one is watching?
Our Monday Zoom Lunch guests are Larry, Kathi Zimpleman, and Alejandro Hernandez, Dean of the Zimpleman College of Business. To join the conversation, here is the Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82681542348
If you’re interested in commentary by some of Iowa’s best writers, please follow the Iowa Writers’ Collaborative members:
Laura Belin: Iowa Politics with Laura Belin, Windsor Heights
Doug Burns: The Iowa Mercury, Carroll
Dave Busiek: Dave Busiek on Media, Des Moines
Art Cullen: Art Cullen’s Notebook, Storm Lake
Suzanna de Baca Dispatches from the Heartland, Huxley
Debra Engle: A Whole New World, Madison County
Julie Gammack: Julie Gammack’s Iowa Potluck, Des Moines and Okoboji
Joe Geha: Fern and Joe, Ames
Jody Gifford: Benign Inspiration, West Des Moines
Nik Heftman, The Seven Times, Los Angeles and Iowa
Beth Hoffman: In the Dirt, Lovilla
Dana James: New Black Iowa, Des Moines
Pat Kinney: View from Cedar Valley, Waterloo
Fern Kupfer: Fern and Joe, Ames
Robert Leonard: Deep Midwest: Politics and Culture, Bussey
Tar Macias: Hola Iowa, Iowa
Kurt Meyer, Showing Up, St. Ansgar
Kyle Munson, Kyle Munson’s Main Street, Des Moines
Jane Nguyen, The Asian Iowan, West Des Moines
John Naughton: My Life, in Color, Des Moines
Chuck Offenburger: Iowa Boy Chuck Offenburger, Jefferson and Des Moines
Barry Piatt: Piatt on Politics: Behind the Curtains, Washington, D.C.
Macey Spensley, The Midwest Creative, Davenport and Des Moines
Mary Swander: Mary Swander’s Buggy Land, Kalona
Mary Swander: Mary Swander’s Emerging Voices, Kalona
Cheryl Tevis: Unfinished Business, Boone County
Ed Tibbetts: Along the Mississippi, Davenport
Teresa Zilk: Talking Good, Des Moines
The Iowa Writers Collaborative is also proud to ally with Iowa Capital Dispatch.
Glad to see this article and the link to the Nieman study. I have to say any company that thinks they are going to run a newspaper enterprise with a 50 percent profit margin or whatever is deluding itself. This has me more convinced than ever that non-profit is the way to go with proper community journalism. As for financially supporting journalism, if I'm going to do that, I'd prefer my dollars go to you and/or the Iowa Writer's Collective than Gannett.
As a simple person with rather low expectations I had to cancel my subscription of the Register several years ago through no fault of the Register. It was a circulation problem, delivery not dependable when there was home delivery, then getting it at post office box, no mail delivery in my small town, to postal holiday closures, it was not worth the hassle.
I still miss the paper on which Iowa depended.