I like competition in the news business.
I competed fiercely with the Des Moines Tribune when I worked at the Des Moines Register and with the Kansas City Star when I worked at the Kansas City Times, even though both times the same company owned both newspapers (and eventually they shut down the afternoon papers). More recently, I enjoyed battling over western Iowa turf with the Register when I worked at the Omaha World-Herald and I enjoyed TBD‘s competition with the Washington Post and with other Washington TV stations.
I always mourned the end of the competition, whether I worked for the surviving organization or the one that died or pulled back.
I also like when journalists get jobs. So I applaud and welcome the Orange County Register’s challenge in Long Beach to the Press-Telegram (a Digital First newsroom I visited Tuesday) with Monday’s launch of the Long Beach Register.
Obviously my loyalty in this newspaper “war” is with my side, the Digital First newsroom. But I always hope a newspaper war isn’t a fight to the finish. I’ve seen too many journalists lose jobs through my career. I’m glad to see the Orange County Register hiring more journalists in both Orange County and Long Beach, and I hope the market thrives enough that both the Long Beach Register and the Press-Telegram prosper. Whatever doubts I have about the print focus of Aaron Kushner’s expansion of the Orange County Register, I wish him well and hope for success for the many journalists he’s hired. I think the future of news is going to see a variety of successful models and I hope this is one of them.
Mostly, though, I favor accurate reporting, and some of the hype for this “war” has been flatly false.
An Associated Press story on this supposed war included this paragraph:
Media business analyst Rick Edmonds said the last time he can recall a major U.S. city adding a new daily paper was around World War II, when Chicago got the Sun-Times and New York got Newsday.
Edmonds and the AP reporter, Justin Pritchard, should both be embarrassed for spinning that silly falsehood, which easily could have been corrected with a little research. While I was surprised that Edmonds would be so mistaken (presuming that he’s being cited accurately), the ultimate responsibility here lies with Pritchard and his editors. Sources can get their facts wrong, but journalists should verify the facts we use in stories, rather than just citing sources for false information.
First, it’s a bit of a stretch to call the Long Beach Register’s launch “a major U.S. city adding a new daily paper.” The Orange County Register has expanded into Long Beach, with a local section wrapped around the Orange County Register. Most of the content being delivered in Long Beach is the Orange County Register.
The Long Beach Register is roughly comparable to New York Newsday, an edition of Newsday published in New York (Newsday is based in Long Island) for about a decade starting in the mid-
The number of newspapers that expanded their local territory with zoned editions back in the 1980s and ’90s was pretty much every major metro. They didn’t always slap the town’s name on the zoned edition, but some did. The Kansas City Times launched a special edition for Johnson County, Kansas, when I was there (though we didn’t give it the name of a Kansas community). The Cedar Rapids Gazette called its Iowa City edition the Iowa City Gazette at some point before I got there.
But let’s go ahead and give them the benefit of the doubt, calling this a new daily paper, somehow different from New York Newsday and the other zoned expansions.
It’s still nowhere near the first in a major U.S. city since World War II. I remember well the St. Louis Sun, which published for less than a year in 1989-90, while I was in Kansas City. Kansas City also briefly had a new newspaper (whose name escapes me; I’m on the road and I’ll dig out a copy when I get home) in the early 1990s after the death of the Kansas City Star.
But we don’t have to go back to those short-lived newspapers. The Washington Times was founded in 1982 and the Washington Examiner in 2005 (it folded earlier this year). Dismiss those as national newspapers if you want, because of their strong political focus, but they both published local news and politics is the leading local industry. But there’s also the Baltimore Examiner (2006-9).
After the Fort Worth Press folded in the 1970s, it relaunched briefly before folding again.
The Omaha Sun‘s life, from 1951 to 1983, was more recent than the 1948 Chicago merger of the Sun and Times (so that wasn’t even a new newspaper anyway, but the Sun was launched in 1941. Newsday launched in 1940.
In all of these cases, the new startup was independent, not a single-section expansion of a newspaper in a neighboring county. Maybe you don’t count the young-adult-focused RedEye and Red Streak in Chicago, but they were new daily papers added in a major U.S. city, Chicago.
And I’m sure I’ve forgotten several others. Please add any that you remember in the comments.
I know it’s exciting in a time of newspaper decline to have someone expanding and competing. But we’re journalists here. Let’s calm down and get our facts straight. This has happened a lot since World War II.
I will invite both Edmonds (I’m presuming he was cited accurately here) and Pritchard to respond to this post and add any response they send, unless they reply directly in the comments.
Update: Rick Edmonds has responded by email:
What I said was that the Sun Times and Newsday were the only metro launches that have stayed around — at least that I could think of. I also made the point that the Register’s move was similar to what The Advocate, under new ownership, is doing to challenge the Times Picayune and NOLA.
Some other readers have pointed to the short-lived St. Louis Sun or the sequence of events in which the Pittsburgh Times Review grew off a suburban predecessor and plugged the gap (following a strike) in which the Press closed and merged with the Gazette.
It depends on what you count, I suppose. Close to home, the Tampa Bay Times launched its Tampa edition more than 25 years ago and has established a free tabloid, tbt, similar to Red Eye.
So there may be an apples and oranges issue here. I would say that a given community — and Justin Pritchard of the AP said we are talking about a population of 500,000 — getting a second paper rather than losing one is relatively uncommon.
No question that getting a second paper rather than losing one is relatively uncommon. But that’s not what the AP story said, so my criticism stands. Thanks to Rick for that quick response.
A response from Twitter:
@stevebuttry Good post. I’d also add the New York Sun, daily broadsheet from 2002-2008.
— Michael Calderone (@mlcalderone) August 21, 2013