Tube City Almanac

April 14, 2007

Don't Make The News a Scaife-Goat

Category: default || By jt3y

OK, who here didn't think that the Tribune-Review was eventually going to end up owning the Daily News? Show of hands? Anyone? Bueller?

(First things first: Those of you who know me know that I'm about as welcome around the Trib as a terminal case of toe fungus, or Hillary Clinton, or maybe Hillary Clinton with toe fungus. So you can judge my credibility accordingly, and according to some people at the Trib, I have none.)

Now, before you go into apoplexy over the idea of Dick Scaife owning the great, gray lady of Lysle Boulevard, my strong suspicion is that if you're just a reader, very little is going to change about the Daily News.

They are not going to suddenly begin investigating rumors that Vince Foster is buried in Renzie Park, or that Teresa Kerry is running for White Oak Borough Council. As best as I can tell, Mr. Scaife does not care about the slant on community journalism.

Frankly, the Trib's suburban papers seem to exist mainly to carry the Trib's classified ads and to boost circulation of the Sunday Tribune-Review. (If you've been buying the News in conjunction with the Sunday Post-Gazette, well, forget it --- if you're a News subscriber, you're going to get the Sunday Trib whether you want it or not.)

. . .

If the same thing happens at the Daily News that has happened at the other papers that the Death Star ... er, I mean the Tribune-Review has taken over, yes, you will start seeing some editorials from the Trib as well as sports and news stories.

Unfortunately, I suspect there will be some job losses --- mainly on the printing and distribution side --- because I assume the Trib will move printing either to its plant in Warrendale or Greensburg. Maybe not. I hope no one loses a job --- too many people have lost jobs at the Daily News lately. But I'm afraid it's likely.

Also, the look of the Daily News will change drastically, because it will be designed in Pittsburgh on the Tribune-Review's giant centralized copy desk. (I hear it looks like the galley of a slave ship, with a guy beating on a kettle drum as the overseer yells, "Faster! Faster! More headlines!")

In other words, it's going to look a lot like the Tribune-Review. With all due respect to my friends at 409 Walnut St., that may be an improvement, because the typography of the News over the last decade has been ... erm ... interesting. And the website will be pulled into the Trib's system.

Otherwise, the content is unlikely to change much.

. . .

A lot of McKeesporters are going to jump up and down and stomp their feet and cancel their Daily News subscriptions.

But if you've been reading the Daily News faithfully, you can't help but notice the lack of advertising. Newspapers don't even cover their printing costs through subscriptions and street sales. They need about 50 percent of their content to be advertising to stay profitable.

I'd guess that many days the News is running about 15 to 20 percent advertising. That's not sustainable. Any newspaper with that kind of ad lineage is going to eventually go out of business.

Being owned by the Tribune-Review will make the News more attractive to advertisers --- they can deal with one salesman and get their ad carried in Connellsville, Monessen, Kittanning, McKeesport, Greensburg and Pittsburgh.

Also, Scaife has much deeper pockets to sustain losses --- if necessary --- than either Latrobe Printing and Publishing Company or the Mansfield family ever did.

So, if you're asking me if I'm happy that Richard Scaife will now own the Daily News, no. But I'd only be happy if the paper was locally owned again, and that's not going to happen. And if the alternative is no Daily News at all, then I will grudgingly accept that. No News is not good news, in other words.

. . .

Let me say something else --- something I have told several Daily News employees recently, and they probably think I was blowing smoke at them. The Daily News is not the Washington Post, but a lot of days, it's pretty damned good.

I hear a lot of McKeesporters criticizing the Daily News. The paper stinks, there's no news in it, it's full of mistakes, blah, blah, blah, bitch, whine, complain.

  • Fact: There's been more news in the News over the past 10 years than at any time since the 1960s.

  • Fact: There's less bias in the News in the last 10 years than ... well, since ever. Go read some Daily News coverage from the 1920s through the 1960s. You'll learn more by seeing what the News didn't report on --- rackets, racism, pollution, corruption --- than what it did.

  • Fact: The News has news from practically every community in the Mon-Yough area every week, if not every day. If you're not reading it, shame on you.

. . .

If you have a bug up your butt about Dick Scaife for whatever reason, then spite yourself. Don't buy the paper.

But when your taxes go up, or there's a string of burglaries in your neighborhood, or a school closes, don't complain because you didn't know about it. Chances are that the Daily News had a story. Maybe it wasn't a perfectly written story, but what do you or I do that's perfect every single day?

Don't take your dislike of Dick Scaife out on the people at 409 Walnut St. (By the way, Scaife's foundations have donated thousands of dollars to Mon Valley groups, including the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and the Garden Club of McKeesport, which maintains the arboretum at Renzie Park. Put that in your National Tube and smoke it.)

And remember that if you don't support that newspaper, well, Scaife's not going to throw money down a hole forever.

Whatever Scaife's political activities may be, no one at the Daily News (and hardly anyone at the Trib) is involved. The people at the News are trying to make a living and maybe do some journalism, and no matter who owns them, they're going to be out there picking up police blotters and covering school board meetings and high school sports the way they have for 123 years.

And if we should be so lucky, for another 123 years to come.

Your Comments are Welcome!

Like churches, most people don’t appreciate wonderful institutions like community newspapers until after they’re gone. The McKeesport Daily News announced my birth, my wedding, my completion of Basic Training in the Army and my return from Desert Storm. It has chronicled the events of my family – from youth basketball games to science fair awards. And, more importantly, it has been at the forefront in reporting on and investigating activities of local politics. The value it has is without question. You guys should be swaggering around Kennedy Park like victorious gladiators. Why else would it by purchased if it wasn’t worth buying?

I commend each staff writer, editor and employee there. Make arrangements and I shall buy you a beer.
Mike Mauer - April 14, 2007

For those of us who are displaced yinzers this could be a “good” thing.

I have been in mourning since the “Police Blotter” was removed and the site went to pay per view!

Possibly, the evil empire might revisit this decision?

Love your site, Jason.

Barry - April 16, 2007

Your commentary eased minds and helped provide a measure of peace. Some will have ups and downs in the days to come. There will be bright hope, as well as memories of papers I knew in another time, including the North Hills News-Record (which my aunt regularly read at her home) and the Irwin Standard-Observer (which even briefly considered an expansion into McKeesport). Still, your words were well observed.
Does it matter? - April 18, 2007

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