When I was growing up, we took two newspapers every day: The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times. The Tribune was -- and is -- a morning paper; the Times was the evening paper. Around the time I was 8 or 9, we stopped taking the Times. No time to read it, my parents said. And the absence wasn't felt in the slightest.
Still the Times continued to publish into the 80s, when it died the death of an afternoon newspaper.
It was a similar story in newsrooms across the nation. People had changed. TV was to blame mostly, I suppose. People got their news and entertainment from the little boxes in their living rooms.
Some PM newspapers formed an alliance with the AMs to create a 24-hour news cycle. But it was too little too late really.
In the 70s, I approximate, news corporations started to take over newspapers. What had been mom-and-pop operations became slick corporate products. One man, Al Neuharth, was a genius at this. Al Neuharth started as a reporter, I believe, on a paper in upstate New York. But he had a genius for business and created the corporate Goliath Gannett Inc. He started buying up small and medium-sized papers across the country in places such as Coffeyville, Kansas, Fort Myers, Florida, and El Paso, Texas. Not exactly full of bright lights and big streets. What these small markets had, though, was a captive audience.
Neuharth wasn't satisfied with his empire of tiny papers. He wanted to create a newspaper for the nation. Thus, USA Today was born. Neuharth cannibalized his newsrooms in the smaller markets for the staff of USA Today, and the newspapers had to carry the salaries of these people for some time. USA Today was mocked as McPaper by serious journalists. Yet, today it thrives.
Somewhere in the 90s, Neuharth remarried, started a new family and passed the reins onto other more ambitious corporate guys. They now wanted quality, not quantity, and decided to buy it. They bought the Detroit Free-Press and the San Jose Mercury News, among others. But quality requires money. The 90s were perhaps the start of the beginning of the end for newspapers. Budgets were squeezed to maintain the bottom line. Gannett was very, very good at maintaining the bottom line and rewarded their investors many times over. But I believe this squeezing mentality is where Gannett and other corporate news organisations got it wrong. News coverage shrank and editorial space was limited as ad revenues started to dry up. Quality was sacrificed. Readers noticed.
Now in the noughties newspapers are dying or moving online. There is a great hue and cry across the world, mostly, it seems, from journalists or ex-journalists. Where did this decline begin? I think it goes back to the 60s and 70s. Changes in lifestyle and changes in ownership. Corporate greed over corporate good. The internet has just hastened the decline and fall of the media empires.
Where will it all end? I don't know that answer. Do you?