For the publishing industry in 2012, there was good news, bad news and no news.
The upside for newsroom staffs is that all of Ohio’s metropolitan dailies survived the steady dive of print journalism; the bad news is that the Plain Dealer could be heading to weight-watchers in 2013 to reduce home delivery to three days a week; the no news is that Newsweek is officially out of business and its one-time mighty competitor, Time, is struggling to steady its wobbly balance sheets. Media analyst David Carr wrote in the New York Times: “Time, Inc., an industry leader in print subscriptions, has yet to find a way to wring money from consumers on the Web.”
Oh, the Tribune Company, which owns the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, has finally found its way out of bankruptcy with the aid of huge loans and is now trying to sell off the Tribune as well as Chicago Magazine.
And depending on who’s counting the casualties, newspaper staffs have dwindled over the past decade to 246,000 from 414,000 – a decline of 40 pct. At the same time, advertising revenue fell by 50 pct.
So with that mind, I confess to being a little confused by a new venture in the non-print business: It’s an oddly stated report that Cox Media Group is thinking positive in its plans to create a “national news website for conservative audiences that is independent, anti-propaganda and rooted in the South away from the right and left coasts”. Speaking of non-sequiturs…
You remember Cox, don’t you? It comes down to us from the late James M. Cox, the former Ohio governor, who around the turn-of-the century bought the Dayton News and Springfield Daily News that bore a strong Democratic brand. By the 1960s it was firmly in the hands of Jim Fain, the last vigorously liberal Democrat to hold an editorship. (Disclosure: I know. He once tried to persuade me to move to Dayton to work for him.)
Fain was a native Georgian who worked his career path through Texas and landed at the Dayton Daily News with a southern-shaped charm, a saber-like mind and one of the few Ohio front-office journalists who didn’t mind taking on the likes of Gov. Jim Rhodes. (The Dayton Daily News is still publishing, but eliminated its editorial page in the summer of 2011.)
But that was then, and Cox is now looking for a Website chief with “an established personal brand” who is “nationally recognized as a voice for heartland conservatism.”
Hold it right there, Cox head-hunters. What’s missing from this resume? An “independent voice” for conservative audiences? Rooted in the south? For “heartland conservatives.” Independent of only northern liberals?
Cox can spend its money anyway that it wishes. But to seek independent minds on one hand and insist on making the mission geographically conservative on the other – what the heck are they talking about? Frankly, it sounds like a warm and gracious page from Southern Living magazine.