The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has announced the cuts I alluded to earlier in the week. In a statement from the publisher, Doug Franklin, they outlined the current predicament:
For years, the AJC was sustained by classified and retail advertising. This revenue allowed us to deliver the newspaper to you 365 days a year at a very reasonable price. But as people turned to the Internet, classified listings declined. Our retail advertisers have been forced by current significant economic challenges to reduce their ad spending.
… No business can lose money for long, and we are working day and night to turn this around. We are making difficult decisions: we have cut staff, frozen pay, reduced our circulation area and taken a sharp pencil to all our business costs.
He announced that the paper will shutter the standalone business section and merge three Sunday features sections. He also alluded to findings from focus groups that has led to a change in coverage:
We have dramatically stepped up our investigative efforts. We’ve added two business columnists and made great strides to simplify and better organize the newspaper. We have redoubled our efforts to present important local news while still providing the national and international coverage you want.
… We also have worked hard to create news pages that are free of bias and opinion pages that are balanced.
Welcome news. Putting a focus on investigative news plays to the newspaper’s strength. Any news outlet can cover a fire or a shooting, but few have the ability to conduct in-depth investigations that keep a check on the powerful. (Today’s probe of our three-decade long agriculture commissioner comes to mind.)
But, Franklin’s vow to ferret out bias is also refreshing. For years, the biggest complaint against the AJC (and most other city’s major newspaper) has been the left-leaning tilt of news coverage. Many people who are defecting away from traditional media are doing so because they perceive a bias in the coverage. In pre-Internet days, those critics had no other options. Today they have plenty. The AJC’s focus on rooting out bias shows a concern for reader complaints that were brushed aside when the advertising coffers were overflowing.
I have high hopes for the new newspaper paradigm that’s forming. I think the newspaper of the future will improve on its strengths and eliminate the information readers can easily get elsewhere. That’s good news.