Hard Times in the Newsroom

Investing in quality may help newspapers, both large and small, weather out the recession.

The Los Angeles Times, which once aspired to the top ranks of national dailies, has cut newsroom staff by half. Meanwhile, The New York Times has limited cuts to about 10 percent of newsroom staff, and has actually added staff overseas and in its Washington, D.C., bureau.

Closer to home, my alma mater, the Valley News, expanded into Claremont, N.H., where the local daily went into sudden bankruptcy. It’s been great as a reader to learn more about the city, and it’s has got to be good for the city’s own self-esteem to see itself through the lens of an intelligent and respectful observer.

Quality is a legitimate and shrewd long-term strategy for companies that take that risk. It worked brilliantly for the NYT during World War II; when newspaper rationing forced New York dailies to only five or so broadsheet pages per day, the NYT spent far more heavily on news than its competitors. At war’s end, the Times’ reputation for quality led it to become the nation’s first national newspaper — a core strength that will help them weather out this recession.

(Hint to Valley News: People would pay for quality content online – it’s worth paying for some market research to investigate this further.)

Read more: The Public Editor: Recession, Revolution and a Leaner Times