Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University
PITTSBURGH — As of Oct. 1, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cut two more days of print, leaving newspapers to be published only on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Andrew Conte, director of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University, says the increasing move toward digital threatens to leave more people behind.
“When newspapers stop publishing print editions, it limits the ability of people to access news and information – particularly those who lack the resources to purchase and maintain digital devices,” Conte says. “It also becomes a greater struggle for those newspapers to remain a driver of the community conversation. Those outlets need to find creative ways of remaining at the forefront of people’s minds.”
Conte notes what happened in nearby McKeesport, Pa., when The Daily News closed its doors at the end of 2015.
“It may seem hard to believe in this age, but seniors living there told me they no longer knew when their friends died,” he says. “Tube City Almanac publishes an online obituary, but these residents didn’t have access to smartphones or computers. They were just left behind.”
While the Post-Gazette will continue to publish breaking news and other stories daily online, it gives readers only a few free stories each month, while offering a digital subscription. Meanwhile, TribLive, which stopped printing the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in 2016, continues to put out its Pittsburgh content for free online, banking on reader clicks to ensure a healthy advertising return.
What remains to be seen in the long-term, however, Conte says, is whether newspapers can continue employing enough staff to maintain the level of coverage readers are used to seeing.
“Under any model, newspapers still struggle to make enough money to cover the costs of a huge newsroom with reporters who cover township and school board meetings; review restaurants, theater shows and movies; report on sporting events from high school football to the NFL; and track important business developments,” he says. “That doesn’t even count the investigative reporters who look at the challenges facing our communities and then ask the difficult questions.”