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 V.18 No.3 | January 15 - 21, 2009 

Thin Line

Maybe I should just make myself one of these babies.
Maybe I should just make myself one of these babies.

The Daily Decline

Behind all the photos of Gov. Bill Richardson frowning as his plans turn to dust, there's another story at the Albuquerque Journal: layoffs.

That's the story at newspapers around the country—and it's a tale U.S. workers are living as unemployment in all industries jumps.

Journal employees typed nervous blogs last week, awaiting announcements of who would be let go. Some of the same people who were around to see that ugly day when the last edition of the Trib was printed have been axed by the Journal. Fewer than 10 newsroom employees were cut, but there were layoffs in the circulation, advertising and production departments as well.

The paper will pull its racks and cease home delivery in more than 30 areas around New Mexico at the end of this month. Raton, Santa Rosa, Tucumcari, Clovis, Portales, Artesia, Carlsbad, Hobbs, Lovington, Alamogordo, Tularosa, Carrizozo, Deming, Lordsburg and Silver City can kiss their Journals goodbye. The West Side and Rio Rancho editions will only come out twice a week.

The cutbacks at the Journal are alarming, particularly since early 2008 saw the slow death of the other daily newspaper in town. So why are the aging giants of media hit so hard by the flailing economy?

The common hypothesis is that 1) daily newspapers are weak because people prefer the Internet or TV as news sources, and 2) you can't expect a brittle old thing like a daily paper not to stumble when a recession smacks into it.

But my question continues to be: Why, when a newspaper is weak, do the Powers That Be try to fix it by firing people? If someone has mono, you don’t hack off her arm and hope she feels better.

As the quality of our daily print publications declines, fewer people will purchase papers. As the proportion of wire news increases and locally focused stories decreases, why should anyone look to the newsstand for information? The same Associated Press articles now filling your local paper's pages are available online as soon as they're written and updated as events unfold.

It sucks to love a dying profession. I came out of college with visions of newsprint in my head. I'm decades too late. The presses are operating, but the work grows slimmer. The newspapermen and women are still around, but plenty of them are looking for other jobs. Everyone's got mouths to feed. As Gene Grant wrote in his final column for the Journal, "It's tough out there."

This column was never a place where one went to gush with love for the Albuquerque Journal. All the same, good luck, everyone.


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