Can the ProJo stop the bleeding?
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.