What the New Year will bring for local news

Some of the stories we’ll be watching in 2013:

What’s going to happen with Advance’s papers?

The (Harrisburg, Pa.) Patriot-News went to a three-day-per-week print-publishing schedule yesterday. “More than 40 veteran journalists” will join new hires, David Wenner wrote in late December:

Fifty-one staffers with PennLive and The Patriot-News will be devoted to gathering and writing news and information — more people than are doing that job today, noted Cate Barron, who will lead the newsroom.

Patriot-News Managing Editor Mike Feeley, who led the paper’s Jerry Sandusky coverage, will be the new company’s director of content (star reporter Sara Ganim left for CNN in November).

The (Syracuse, N.Y.) Post-Standard will cut its home-delivery frequency to three days per week but will make “smaller papers available at newsstands in Onondaga County the rest of the week.” In a press conference after his 900th win last month, Syracuse University men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim said, “I’m probably the only guy in Syracuse who reads the paper every day. Well, I must be or else we wouldn’t be losing the paper.”

“There will be changes coming,” Cleveland Plain Dealer publisher Terry Egger said in a TV interview Dec. 23, but no decisions yet. Plain Dealer journalists launched a pre-emptive campaign against print reductions in November. Management announced it would cut the Plain Dealer’s newsroom by about a third in 2013, and it and the paper’s Guild came to an agreement protecting against significant future layoffs soon after. In late December PD reporters Harlan Spector and John Mangels published an op-ed on Facebook after they said the paper failed to run it. “Advance insists it’s tailoring the approach to each individual market, and that The Plain Dealer’s fate for now remains undecided,” they write.

But in New Orleans and Birmingham, Ann Arbor and Harrisburg, Huntsville and Mobile, the outcome has been depressingly, tragically similar. And Advance’s customers – the newspaper and online readers who expect, deserve and depend on good journalism – have been left out of the decision-making.

In New Orleans, circulation is up since the Times-Picayune cut print frequency, the company’s business manager said in a radio interview.

And what will happen at The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger or The (Portland) Oregonian, or any of the company’s other papers?

What’s Warren Buffett going to do?

Buffett bet on local newspapers in 2012, buying most of Media General’s papers as well as The Eagle of Bryan/College Station, Texas. His World Media Enterprises closed the Manassas, Va., News & Messenger at the end of 2012, citing too much competition. WME sold the News & Messenger’s popular local-news website InsideNoVa to a company called Northern Virginia Media Services in late December, which plans to introduce a print product called Prince William Today this month as well. Buffett is reportedly interested in The (Allentown, Pa.) Morning Call, which like other Tribune Co.-owned papers and TV stations will probably go on the block this year.

Speaking of Tribune…

The company emerged from a four-year bankruptcy on Monday, saying it planned to sell its eight newspapers including the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times. Possible buyers include Buffett, Rupert Murdoch, and Aaron Kushner (more on him below).

Is there anything more exciting than a possible Washington Post paywall?

If the Post installs some sort of paywall this year, “the free access versus paid access debate will be virtually over (at least for a while),” Peter Preston writes in The Observer. Paywalls are “in” in the Post’s annual list of what will be in and out in 2013. If you can handle one more debate about paywalls, or debate about debates about paywalls, this Mathew Ingram Storify is pretty swell.

Will the New York Times Company sell The Boston Globe?

The New York Times would “most likely be reporting a sales spike this year instead of a decline” if it sold the Globe, Bloomberg’s Edmund Lee wrote in December. But as Poynter’s Rick Edmonds said in 2011 when Aaron Kushner tried to buy the Boston paper, the Globe is likely a “keeper for the company — unless someone comes forward with cash and is prepared to way overpay.”

Kushner has been investing in the Orange County Register, since buying it last year. He’s betting that readers will pay more for quality local journalism. We may learn this year whether he’s right.

 

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