It was dismaying to read some of the vengeful comments on the Gazette’s Web site this morning, as readers reacted to a news story published Friday about yet more layoffs at the daily.
The trolls were out in force, leveling all sorts of bitter criticisms at the paper. They attacked its editorial philosophy, its inherent biases toward left and right (nice trick if you can do it!), its failure to support community initiatives, its supposedly incompetent reporting and its bankrupt out-of-town owners.
Compared to the Post, the Gazette suffers. But it’s still a good paper, with smart, competent reporters, an interesting and delightfully combative editorial page and a daily feast of news and information that no other medium can match.
But let’s say that the trolls are right, and that the Gazette richly deserves its present fate. The paper has shed 40 percent of its employees during the last three years, so if present trends continue the Gazette will cease publication within the next couple of years. That’ll teach ‘em, right?
Those of us who compete with the ‘G’ might profit by its demise, but the city would be severely damaged. Even in this era of declining circulation, reduced advertising revenue, and shrunken editorial staffs, metro dailies serve communities in ways that no other medium can replace or duplicate.
Consider the breadth, depth, and continuing coverage of daily newspapers, which still define, celebrate, criticize, investigate, and breathe life into cities. There’s not a single local print publication, Web site, or blog that has the resources to do the kind of journalism that the daily does every day-and often does very well.
Every sizeable city in America has been defined by its daily newspaper(s) for at least a century. If that era is coming to an end, what will replace the dailies?
Conventional wisdom suggests that newspapers will endure on the Web. Maybe they will, but as skeleton organizations, stripped of the revenue and resources that now power their sites.
The Gazette, even in its present diminished state, employs scores of reporters and editors. Those men and women create the stories, the multiple sections, and the continuous updates that make the site worth visiting. Absent the revenue generated by print, the Web site couldn’t support such an editorial staff. The Web site would become one of many, constantly under attack by anklebiters trying to carve out specialty niches on the local Web, and bring in slivers of revenue.
It’s hard to imagine Colorado Springs without the Gazette. Much of what would pass for news would be incomplete, partial, biased, and inaccurate.
Absent the gray lady of Prospect Street, absurd rumors would proliferate, local governments would cheerfully do whatever they pleased, and the TV stations would (horror of horrors!) have to do their own reporting.
If the ‘G’ disappears, its employees will suffer for a while. They’ll find new jobs-but where will we find a new daily? Not in the unmediated, angrily partisan snark of the Web – and not in the pages of free community weeklies.
The old era passeth – and the new has yet to be born.
And for all of you trolls – where are you going to post comments?