The opinion pages of the Southern California News Group, the endangered 11-newspaper chain that includes the Daily News and the Orange County Register, all ran a coordinated series of weekend pieces about the threats facing local news and the SoCal papers themselves. The lead editorial did not mention by name owner Digital First Media or its venture fund investor that is driving deep cutbacks at newspapers across the country, or any direct threats to the SCNG papers. Instead, the editorial calls on the public to help save newspapers.
Newspapers — don’t mind if we still call ourselves that, though this is the modern world, and you may well be reading this on the tiny screen of your phone — are as important to our democracy as your City Hall, state Legislature, Capitol dome.
Maybe more important, as we have a vested interest in the facts of our shared civic lives, as opposed to the politics of them.
We need Southern Californians to subscribe to our newspapers, on both our print and digital platforms. We need your businesses to advertise with us. We need the Southland to recognize that to support real journalism, you have to pay for it...
We know you want the shenanigans in your City Hall covered. We know you want the same from Sacramento and Washington, D.C. We’ll keep bringing you that first rough draft of history every day, throughout the day, if you stand up for us.
An accompanying piece by Frank Pine, executive editor of the Southern California News Group, did bring the problem home. He noted the recent call by the Denver Post, also owned by the same firm, for new ownership or a new strategy as major cuts loom.
Our Southern California publications have had to make similar reductions: Our newsrooms have been cut by nearly half in just the past two years.
Our business model is not just distressed or struggling. That’s putting it too lightly. It's broken.
Here in Southern California, where we have 11 daily newspapers and more than 20 weeklies, we’re working hard to preserve local journalism even as we try to develop new business models, from events planning and management to a digital subscription strategy that will soon roll out.
Journalism faces enormous challenges in adapting to new modes of media consumption. If the Fourth Estate as we know it is to survive, it will require ownership that is invested in its long-term success and a strategy that prizes purpose over profit.
We’re not giving up.
We do, however, need your support.
The pieces end with a call to subscribe to one or all of the SCNG publications. Among the other pieces is this by Toni Sciacqua, managing editor for digital for the Southern California News Group, telling readers It’s time to take responsibility for how you get news.
If you do care, you can seek out ways to make sure real news and not propaganda is in your feed. The best way to support newsrooms is to get your news directly. Bookmark a home page. Download an app. Sign up for an email newsletter. Pick a newspaper and pay for either a digital or a print subscription. Evangelize the work of real journalists by sharing stories with your friends and family.
Doug Saunders, formerly of the chain's San Bernardino Sun, wrote a piece saying You don’t want an amateur writing your breaking news like the terrorist mass shooting in San Bernardino or the Christopher Dorner manhunt, which he covered.
Real journalism requires you to go where the story is, to see it with your own eyes and to report on it as it happens. It’s not always as dramatic and as a terrorist attack or a major manhunt. Sometimes it’s spending long hours at a city council meeting or poring over documents in a courthouse.
Unlike all the fake news floating around on social media, real news is hard to come by.
I’m proud of my former colleagues who are still hard at work bringing local news home informing their communities of critical events in their lives.