In a classic case of too-little-too-late, it is dawning on the nation’s largest newspaper chain that its opinion pages are driving away subscribers and losing what little relevance they still had.
And apparently still eluding the news dinosaur is the bias of its supposed straight news pages and its coverage decisions; i.e. gay and transgender groups that get fawning coverage and patriotic or conservative groups that get none.
Newspapers owned by Gannett Co. — publisher of USA Today and more than 250 other papers — are shrinking their editorial sections and dropping syndicated columns and editorial cartoons that are almost invariably leftist, reports The Washington Post. Political endorsements and letters to the editor are also being cut.
A committee of editors formally recommended the changes at a meeting in April, but it seems unlikely that any changes will reverse the plunge in newspaper readership as older subscribers die off and young people go exclusively digital.
“Readers don’t want us to tell them what to think,” was the revelation that the editors from Gannett newsrooms nationwide unveiled in an internal presentation. “They don’t believe we have the expertise to tell anyone what to think on most issues.”
Editorials are “among our least read content,” the panelists said, and are “frequently cited” by readers as a reason for ending their subscriptions.
Newspapers have traditionally used subscriber numbers to justify their all-important advertising rates.
“Today’s contemporary audiences frequently are unable to distinguish between objective news reporting and Opinion content,” the editorial panel wrote in an earlier version of its plea, in 2018. “In the old days, content appearing on print pages that were clearly labeled helped alleviate those concerns, along with a society that possessed a higher news literacy. But in today’s digital/social environment, we as an industry have been challenged to make these differences clear.”