by David Simmonds
By now it is no secret that print-format newspapers are in trouble. As advertisers flock to the web, major dailies throughout the country are cutting staff as well as their focus on how they cover news. The newspaper business has long been a high-profit endeavor, creating some of America’s wealthiest and most influential families. In recent years they have been slow to accept the changing times, but now the inevitable is upon them. With declining revenues, the standard format model is changing, with some papers becoming “re-packagers” of news, eliminating the need for a full reporting staff. Most often, the first to go are the international reporters, as more emphasis is directed towards local and entertainment news.
The San Diego Union Tribune has eliminated their Mexico based correspondent, the San Antonio Express-news closed its Mexico City bureau, and the Houston Chronicle recalled a border reporter. The story is the same throughout the country. Presumably, the Mexico personnel cuts are specifically designed to cut costs. However, it should not be discounted that the personal danger to journalists in Mexico might be a factor, as well. Mexico has been the most dangerous Latin America country for scribes the past two years with seven of them being seriously murdered in 2006 and six more this past year. Reporting on corruption and the drug cartels has become very risky business, and the cost/benefit analysis probably doesn’t add up for the finance department suits. Some of you may ask “does it matter?” I say it does. Mexico is a close neighbor, and what happens there affects us here, even though the connection is not always obvious. As trans-border business increases every year and thousands of Americans and Canadians move to or buy vacation homes in Mexico, the thirst and necessity for south-of-the-border news becomes more essential.
I expect newspapers to be around for a long time, but not in the form we are used to. The morning paper with a cup of coffee is a daily ritual for many of us who have passed our 40th year. Firing up the computer and squinting at our home page to read the news does not provide the same comfort as reading your local paper’s headlines (before going to directly to the sports page). My son, who is thirteen, doesn’t get this sentiment, and therein lies the problem…and most certainly the future.