Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Community-newspaper consultant scoffs at NYT editor's prediction that most local papers will be gone in five years

Dean Baquet
When New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet said last month that "Most local newspapers are going to die in the next five years," people in the community newspaper industry dismissed Baquet's declaration as ill-informed and went on about their business. Now community-newspaper consultant Kevin Slimp has challenged Baquet to put his money where his mouth is.

Kevin Slimp
"He’s saying what so many have said over the past 10 or 15 years: 'Just give them ___ years and they’ll be gone'," Slimp writes on his State of Newspapers site. Noting that Baquet said 'I don’t know what the model is for covering the school boards in Newark,' he says, "To assume Newark, N.J., is small-town America just goes to show how out-of-touch newspaper executives are these days. Most newspapers aren’t in places like New York City or even Newark, N.J. They’re in towns like McKenzie, Tenn., Fergus, Ont., Worcester, Va., Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Winona, Texas. These are all places I’ve visited recently with newspapers that won’t be closing in the next five years."

Slimp quotes Joey Young, a publisher of several papers in Kansas: “In communities where there is local ownership that cares and puts out a quality product, then there will continue to be newspapers that are vital to their communities.” And Dale Gentry, publisher of The Standard-Banner in Jefferson City, Tenn.: “Though no one can accurately predict the future, I believe newspapers – independently owned ones that cover their communities well – will remain in business for many years to come. . . . We were all supposed to be out of business by 2000, then 2019. In places like Jefferson County, Tennessee – and many, many others across the U.S. – the newspaper is still well-supported, vital to the community, and read thoroughly. I don’t see that changing any time soon.”

Slimp writes, "So here’s my offer. I would like to make a wager with Dean Baquet. I’m not angry. Not picking a fight. I just wish I’d made that bet 10 years ago. Everybody was betting against me back then. I will bet that most newspapers in the U.S. will not be dead in five years. Tell you what, let’s make it six. I’ll give Dean the benefit of the doubt."

1 comment:

Matt Paxton said...

Kevin, as you know, I agree with you. Unfortunately, the 'big guys' have gone so far down the road of gutting their print papers, and drunk the Kool-aid of digital revenue, that Baquet's prediction for group-owned newspapers is probably correct. Our readers still vote with their dollars that they value a local print publication. Not to say that we don't have to work hard to maintain circulation.

I think your bet is a good one. I'd make it also. I'll put up a case of our local award-winning wine.

Matt Paxton