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Can the ProJo stop the bleeding?

March 14, 2012
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The Providence Journal long had a particular niche – and enviable market coverage – as the smallest state’s dominant news organization. But the Internet set off a tsunami for the newspaper industry, with ongoing consequences for the ProJo, as Ted Nesi reports:

Advertising sales at The Providence Journal plunged by more than 60% over the last six years, forcing Rhode Island’s top newspaper to eliminate a third of its work force and to rely increasingly on subscribers and printing contracts to pay the bills.

Nesi notes that the ProJo’s percentage advertising decline last year was the smallest since 2007, so perhaps ad revenue – still a lot of money — is stabilizing. That would be a good thing for Rhode Island, since no other news organization can match even the Journal’s reduced level of staffing.

Yet observers such as David Scharfenberg say the ProJo also has to look itself in the mirror and show more moxie in fighting for its future:

Indeed, in this digital era, the biggest challenge for the ProJo is one as old as the typewriter: producing a good read. And it can be done. A few suggestions from this humble media critic.

First, assign more columnists and put them on the front page. The paper is too often dry on A1 and it needs more bite — columnist Bob Kerr, et al, can provide it.

Second, there should be a “news analysis” piece on the front page every day. Next to the straight story on the latest initiative out of the Department of Education, for instance, print a take on how Education Commissioner Deborah Gist is navigating the Chafee era. The ProJo has a newsroom of unmatched size and institutional memory. It can provide much-needed context and it should. 

6 Comments leave one →
  1. jen coleslaw permalink
    March 14, 2012 3:33 pm

    The fact that until recently (and I say that because I just don’t read the Journal anymore online so perhaps that’s changed) there was no news on the weekends. Seriously? In this day and age of instant news all the time, the Journal thought it could kind of rest on its laurels and not have anyone covering news from Friday night til Monday morning?

    I am all for supporting the local paper–I pay for a Post subscription, donate it to a school and do all my reading online (because they don’t have an online paywall thing) but the Post has news all day every day! Actual news, even.

    While 27/7 news doesn’t necessarily translate into dollars for a printed newspaper, I would pay for an online subscription if there was actual news on a regular basis. I now get all my RI news from WPRI.com, WRNI and gcpvd.com

  2. March 14, 2012 3:35 pm

    No news on the weekends? The paper may be inconsistent on that. But I think you’re over-generalizing, Jen.

  3. jen coleslaw permalink
    March 14, 2012 4:56 pm

    Perhaps, but when I would look at Projo.com on the weekends, the breaking 7-7 news was only ever sports. Which, as you know, I believe is important. But I find it hard to believe nothing else happened in the entire state besides the Red Sox and the Pawsox playing.

  4. trudy permalink
    March 14, 2012 5:01 pm

    I pay for my local town newspapers, both of them.

    Projo has gone downhill – it did away with most local coverage, dumped fine features like Moneyline, and now it has an e-edition in a horrid format that’s almost unreadable.

    I would probably pay for an e-edition in pdf, but not that exercise in frustration.

  5. William permalink
    March 14, 2012 9:33 pm

    As someone based mostly out of state but yearning for RI news, I have recently moved from the unreadable (free) ProJo website to the facsimile edition available on the ipad and find I’m much happier with the delivery system than I had expected. Among other things, the ipad edition frees me from the compulsion to read the hateful and twisted postings presented as “comments” on the website. I’m already feeling more positive about RI’s future!

    That said, there is very little to read each day and, often, way too much fluff. I guess it’s just not realistic to expect a beefier product at this juncture.

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