Thursday, March 05, 2009

Shape of things to come

The features departments at the Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News & Observer are merging.

I wonder why that hasn't happened more frequently.

In fact, though I worked with some very talented feature writers and editors at three general-interest dailies, you have to ask what they bring to the table that's not now being replicated by their counterparts at alternative weeklies. Other than frequency of publication.

Just before the Rocky closed, I had a conversation with a veteran from the paper who's been there for several decades, and he said he'd been asking himself the same thing for years.

Why wouldn't the Rocky (or the Post) benefit by getting rid of their feature depaprtments (and the 15-20 employees) entirely and simply inserting a copy of the Denver alt-weekly Westword in every Thursday edition? The daily could pay for the weekly's extra copies (Westword's print run may be 80,000, or about one-third the circulation of either daily).

Westword gains a lot of extra readers, which would presumably let it boost its ad rates. The daily can provide its readers local arts and entertainment coverage without replicating the efforts of the alt-weekly.

The main downside I see is that the daily might cringe a bit at the salty language in the weekly, not to mention all the sex ads. And the weekly might lose its eagerness to serve as an independent critic of the daily's new coverage.

But that might be a price each side is willing to pay -- particularly a daily that's struggling to stay in business.

No comments: