Who Needs a Failing Local Media When You Can Have a Failing National Media?

The New York Times is struggling. They had a war with the Boston Globe’s reporters and are hemorrhaging cash.  They have no really innovative new revenue model to boost their finances either.  However, they think they might be on to something: San Francisco!

Yes, both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are planning “San Francisco editions.”

Both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times are planning to introduce San Francisco Bay Area editions, hoping to win new readers and advertisers there by offering more local news, in what could be the first glimpse at a new strategy by national newspapers to capitalize on the contraction of regional papers.

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The Journal expects to start its San Francisco edition in November or December, adding a page or two of general-interest news from California, probably once a week, produced by the large staff it already has in the Bay Area. This is different from previous efforts by The Journal to publish regional editions, which had focused on local business news. The paper, based in New York, is also looking into creating a New York edition, with emphasis on adding coverage of the arts, but that plan is not as fully developed. (NY Times 9/4/09)

San Francisco, and the Bay Area in general, have a relatively transient population. In SF in particular, you have a much higher percentage of people from outside the area with less loyalty to the local paper. I suppose this was somewhat inevitable.

So, who is looking forward to the re-creation of the New York newspaper rivalries on the West Coast? At this point all local coverage can’t be dismissed as it is so sorely lacking now. However, I’m not sure that having the national papers parachute in is really the best solution. A page or two a week isn’t really enough to address the myriad of crises (and the occasional good news) that we are dealing with out here.  And if these editions push the Chronicle and the other papers here further towards the grave, it is likely the net result of this coverage will be less local reportage.

The newspaper industry doesn’t really need more consolidation or more vulturing of each other’s business. It needs a connection with the community that will restore trust in local media establishments.

7 thoughts on “Who Needs a Failing Local Media When You Can Have a Failing National Media?”

  1. This wouldn’t be happening unless it made some financial sense. But look around town – the Chronicle is about to fire MORE people, the people who write and produce the content they claim to be in the business of selling with ads next to it, and the Examiner is going the route of penny-post ‘bloggers’ who range from interesting writers, to people who literally reprint press releases.

    The Chronicle has fired all of its investigative reporters. They’ve lost so many experienced people, and the paper costs more and is thinner than ever.

    Add to that the fact that even local entites like the Guardian continue to contract, and there IS a small opening for the Times or the WSJ to add in a little local news and sell it as something worth selling.

    I don’t know what the long term effect is, but I do know this – charging me a buck for a paper that’s got very little actual reporting of news is something I’m going to spend my money on. Clearly, Hearst is just running the paper into the ground using the tried and true “cut payroll for short term gain” and doesn’t care if the thing is a joke.

  2. But the NYT already does have a local NYC edition, and the local section is quite expansive.  Does the WSJ mean to say that they’re simply expanding the Metro arts section?  When in NYC I always skim the paper to make sure it says “New York Metro” on it rather than National Edition; in fact, last I was in the City, they still published LI, Metro-North and CT editions too.

    Honestly, I still like the NYT.  They’re not perfect, but they are still good, and I would certainly love to see the NYT’s coverage of California.  The NYT does a lot of great muckraking of local politicians (New York is not exactly a political paradise, even when compared to California), and I think they do good work.  If they could recreate that work in California, I would be favorably impressed.

    I do enjoy reading the Chron, but they should seriously just delete the comments section entirely – it seems like they’re just trying to get page views by allowing people to post the sheer volume of hate they do, so I actually avoid reading the online edition of it – I’ll pick up the paper when I’m in SF, but the online edition just makes my blood pressure rise.

  3. If the New York Times puts reports in Sacramento and provides quality coverage of events in the state government, then that will be a net positive.  Haven’t we all been concerned about the lack of quality coverage in the state’s capitol?

    If all it is is an expanded tech news section, then all I can say is “feh.”

  4. I’m sorry but it is a little ridiculous that a state the size of a country–both population-wise and gegraphically–does not have a newspaper that covers the entire state. National news could be a footnote compared with the amount of news that gets amassed in California in one day.

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