Newspaper Death Watch

The last couple of weeks have not been very fun for employees of Tucson-area newspapers.

First, there was the sale of the Explorer and a handful of resulting layoffs. Then came last week's news that the Arizona Daily Star laid off 11 editorial employees, some of whom had been on staff for 20-plus years. You can read more in Media Watch and on, where we--with some help from Michael Marizco and his the layoffs quite extensively.

This coverage on our blog prompted a critic of the Weekly to comment that we shouldn't care, because "11 jobs ain't shit." Here's a slightly edited version of my response to him.

We covered these 11 layoffs because of what they symbolize in terms of the fate of daily newspapers and journalism. Dailies have, for years, been hacking themselves to keep their 20-40 percent profit margins intact. They're responding to challenges (the Internet, Craigslist, etc.) not by innovating or reinvesting, but by trying to save money in the short-term. And as a result, they're dying. No matter what Tucson Citizen publisher Michael Chihak says.

This is not to say alt-weeklies are immune from layoffs. The Weekly has laid people off here and there over the years. Just days after the Star layoffs, the Chicago Reader and Washington City Paper announced significant staff cutbacks. And this is not to say that layoffs aren't sometimes justified.

The point is that this is the latest in a trend of cutbacks that's going to lead to the death of many daily newspapers as we know them.

Of course it's a bigger deal, overall, when more people are laid off in other industries. But as a publication that covers the local media (because nobody else does; we need to fill that niche), heck yeah, we're going to cover this.

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