Here is a simple, boiled down reason: Readers value the public service the newspaper produces. Owners value the profit the newspaper produces. Profit trumps readers every time. The owners may appreciate the public service journalism the paper may produce, but it isn’t what they value the most. And the voice of readers isn’t as nearly as loud as the demands of a profit culture. If a business isn’t making the amount of money that its shareholders wish, expect new revenue sources, expense cuts or firings or all three. It’s not evil. It’s not wrong. It’s the way capitalism works. I suspect that inside the corporate offices the powers that be have asked, “where were all these ‘readers’ a few months ago?” If the newspaper’s market penetration were 50% or higher, my guess is that newspapers would be delivered every day. (Note disagreement in the comments below.)
Every city deserves a good newspaper. Every city needs an organized group of journalists demanding civic accountability and rooting out malfeasance. New Orleans isn’t alone in that. (John McQuaid describes it well here.)
The end result? The loss of the daily journalism the newspaper produces. (The paper says that it will continue to publish 24/7 online. We’ll see. The paper has laid off an awful lot of journalists.)
I wonder if a family owned newspaper — one in which the family member lives in the community and runs into readers at church and the grocery store and Rotary – would accept a lower profit margin to serve his or her community. When corporate offices are located elsewhere, well, the impact of the loss of a daily institution like a newspaper isn’t felt.
Looking on the bright side, this is an opportunity for the people of New Orleans to replace the newspaper’s journalism with a new journalistic structure. New Orleans is a bright, creative, fun and crazy city. If any community can do it, it’s New Orleans.