News Media

Statesman and Others Evolve

The impending sale of the Idaho Statesman’s terminally ill adoptive parent has caused many in the newsroom to ponder the question “who’s your daddy now.”

The mood in the newsroom was euphoria that they escaped reacquisition by Gannett, muted optimism about McClatchy, and a little remorse at the loss of Knight-Ridder before anyone really got to know them. They all rejoiced like emancipated slaves when Gannett sold out to Knight-Ridder only a few months ago. Now McClatchy, owners of a group of Californian papers, will be the master in the Big House. With 80% of the stock controlled by the family, it could be good news or bad for Boise readers.

Statesman old timer Tim Woodward has outlasted 8 executive editors, 8 publishers, and everyone in the newsroom in the past 34 years. Those numbers mean the brass had an average residency of about 4 years. It takes that long just to learn that Mormons don’t have beards, wear bonnets or long dresses and there is probably one within earshot as we speak.

The days of a kindly old man running the local paper or a brash young editor devoted to cleaning up public corruption are almost a thing of the past in American Journalism. Like the “ma and pa grocery,” the corner service station, and real hardware stores, hometown newspapers are few and far between.

Readers who peruse their morning paper view it as a source of news and information–sprinkled with comics, crossword puzzles, movie times, TV program listings, and letters from passionate readers. Mangement sees it differently.

Most of today’s newspaper publishers view a newspaper as a vehicle for advertising. It becomes a delicately balanced wheel (vicious circle). Cover the news to create circulation (readership), use the circulation to sell the ads which create the money to cover the news, then use the money to cover the news and create the circulation….round and round. The balance is lost when the money is sent off to some corporate headquarters–like the franchise fees for a fast food restaurant.

Toss television and internet blogs into the equation and the balance is thrown off even more, causing the wheel to wobble. Television competes for viewers with sensational stories of “Female, Mormon and Gay living in Idaho.” (a recent Channel 6 offering) Even the GUARDIAN attracts news hungry readers by covering stories the STATESMAN either misses or refuses to publish. At the Statesman they are still devoting coverage to Lewis & Clark and that story is 200 years old!

Bottom line is EVERYONE is competing for those readers and advertising dollars at the expense of good journalism. Like it or not the IDAHO STATESMAN is the prime news source in all of Idaho. The Associated Press, TV stations, radio stations, and even the GUARDIAN all depend upon the Statesman as a news source.

Unfortunately the growth and “boom” in Southwest Idaho create the ideal climate for corporate news peddlers–readers and advertisers. The trick is arranging a marriage of the two groups and “news” is the common denominator.

All of us–readers and writers alike–have a tremendous stake in the journalistic side of an institution like the Idaho Statesman that has served us for nearly 150 years. At least newspaper journalists tend to stick around longer than their migrant cousins in television.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Good points, as usual, Guardian. (I figger it’s just a matter of time before somebody will see the awesome Guardian readership numbers – and the native talent and savvy of the participants, of course – and offer you million$ to turn this into a commercial venture! An offer you can’t refuse!)

    As a former Statesman employee (carrier*), for as long as I can remember, the liberals have complained that the Statesman was pandering to the conservatives, and the conservatives have complained that it’s a liberal rag. (So they must be doing SOMETHING right, huh?)

    Who knows? Maybe the daily printed newspaper is destined go the way of the public library, due in significant part to the “Information Superhighway.” (God bless you, Algore!)

    * – Steve the newspaper carrier… I started after school, when the Statesman had a weekday AFTERNOON edition. Graduated to mornings. (At the time, it was 35 cents a week, or 45 cents if you wanted the Sunday paper.) I must be getting old – I love to wax nostalgic.

  2. NPR Radio talked about this very subject today. Times are changing and the Internet is taking a big bite out of the way we used to do things.

    I have my Google home page setup so that it always displays my favorite national news sites with the current top stories, the Boise Guardian with its most recent postings and the weather in all the locations I am interested in.

    We’re not totally there yet, I still have to go to the Statesman and broadcast media to get the complete picture on much of the local news, but that too is quickly changing…

    I think that Blog sites like the Boise Guardian will become more a part of our future local news sources where we not only get the news, but can interact with it as well.

  3. The web is changing things drastically. We can now get our news from any number of sources from practicaly anywhere in the world.

    However, we still need reporters who work 40+ hours a week digging into stories. The blogosphere can’t replace that, though they’re good at watchdogging media.

    ED NOTE–GUARDIAN agrees big time.

  4. Interesting reading about Newspapers and blogs…,,1730382,00.html

  5. There are a lot of things a newspaper can do better than other news media. Line bird cages, wrap fish (except the ink is toxic, I hear), cover walls, pack dishes,… etc.

    I understand ghetto kids can come up with more uses for newspapers than suburban kids.

    But I understand there was a time when people used them to keep informed on what was happening in the world. Actually, I find radio (BBC!) is the best way for me to keep up. The web has been a major disapointment as a news channel. Most of the news sites are the same news organizations, using a different medium. When you try and find some alternative reporting (not opinion) on news stories, you find the same story, exact same words repeated on countless newspaper and television station websites. You have to do a lot of clicking around to get into any depth in a story on the web.

  6. You said: “At the Statesman they are still devoting coverage to Lewis & Clark and that story is 200 years old!”

    Well, duh! They missed the story then, and they’re trying to catch up.

    Yeah, the newspaper sale, is rather amazing. The Statsman, of course, once upon a time was owned by a real, live person. Then it was sold to Federated Newspapers (a little two-bit, Mickey Mouse outfit); then to Gannett (a big, multibilliondollar Mickey Mouse outfit), then to KR, a … well, it didn’t stick around long enough for us to find out what it’s like. And now the big M. I dunno anything about that outfit, but I’ll bet it suffers from the same problems as Gannett — money hungry, “send us money and we’ll let you run the newspaper with whatever money you have left.”

    Full disclosure: I’m a now-retired-and-free-to-vent ex-longtime Statesman employee, under both Federated and Gannett. And the biggest problem I saw through all those years was that there are so many layers of bosses, it’s hard to get anything major done.

    If I wanted to do something that would require a sizeable financial outlay, for example, I was supposed to talk to the assistant managing editor, who would talk to the managing editor, who would talk to the executive editor, who would talk to the publisher, who, if he thought the idea was worthwhile, would submit it to somebody at Gannett, who would run it up through a bunch more layers.

    And then, if it finally got approved, someday the word would work its way back down, but then either I wouldn’t remember whatthehell I wanted the money for in the first place, or I would have already given up the buggy after the horse died and bought a car anyway, or given up the chisel we used to cut the words into the stone and bought a pencil and then a pen and then a typewriter …

    Ah, to have a real, live publisher who really was the person who owned and published the paper rather than someone who got the title “publisher’ because he or she …. um, er, uh … well, did something that got somebody to give him or her the title (we never did find out how any of the got it).

    Still, some call it “progress’ …

    ED NOTE– Gordon, THIS editor took about a minute to get you published just like you wrote it.

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: