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Thursday, June 23, 2011

How will Courier changes affect Plainfield?

How to make 50,000 people disappear? Just jigger the map.
Map from the East Brunswick Patch.
How will the changes Gannett is making to its New Jersey newspapers affect Plainfield?

Even as I finished posting to CLIPS yesterday the links to the breaking story on layoffs throughout the media giant's New Jersey operations, an email link to a post by Courier reporter Mark Spivey on the Plainfield mini-site landed in my inbox (see here).

The bottom line? It appears that Spivey, who began as the 'Plainfield beat' reporter, and then was in recent months assigned several other neighboring towns, will now be a 'general assignment' staff reporter, meaning essentially without a regular beat. The news has to be disheartening to Gannett employees everywhere.

Will breaking news about Plainfield disappear?

I don't think that's likely, but what IS LIKELY is that folks won't be pleased with what the editors assign Spivey to cover: contention and crime.

One hopes the Plainfield mini-site, which has been an online goldmine for the Courier from the day Spivey first took it on, continues -- Gannett would be crazy to kill it. On the other hand, editing it takes time, and if they have Mark chasing over half the state to cover stories, something may have to give.

In the end, it's a business decision, and both a Gannett exec (see here) and Poynter (a journalism site, see here) underscore that the chain's advertising revenue continues to slide, battered by online competition and a rotten economy.

And when it comes to the advertising that must underwrite daily newspapers, Plainfield simply cannot generate enough to make a difference.

This is hardly news. Back during Al McWilliams' time as Mayor, the Suburban News (before it was absorbed by Advance, the Ledger parent) tried home deliveries of free copies to half of Plainfield. Ultimately, the experiment was dropped when ad revenue failed to cover the cost of the printing and delivery.

While Gannett has trumpeted the stylistic changes it has been rolling out for its Jersey papers, the sad truth is the news gets thinner and thinner, as does the newspaper.

To the point that when I pick up a Monday copy, I ask myself why I am plunking down 75¢ for something that won't even wrap a good order of fish 'n chips.

Am I just one of that dying breed of those who need the physical 'paper' to feel I've gotten the news?

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Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Dan, I think that you have predicted EXACTLY what will happen with news about Plainfield. One only has to look back at what happened when the Plainfield-based newspaper moved to Bridgewater. Even though for a period of time there was a small office maintained in Plainfield, most news went something like: "The perpetrators were last seen heading toward Plainfield." Forget that it could have been Elizabeth or Westfield or even New York City, because the reporting was always linking crime with The Queen City. :-(

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Anonymous said...

Maybe it isn't such a bad thing. They only report on bad things that happen in Plainfield anyway. We can perhaps shape our future through PR. Just keep the mayor away from any media.

Anonymous said...

Bring back Bernice.