The news that The Oklahoman is outsourcing its printing operations to the Tulsa World is yet another indication of the demise and eventual death of the hard-copy newspaper.
More Americans now work for online-only outlets than for newspapers, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics https://t.co/RI3KQxcdhE
— Nieman Lab (@NiemanLab) June 7, 2016
In fact, the newspaper’s decision NOT to invest in new presses can actually be considered a decent business move by a company that alienates thousands upon thousands of potential customers through its extremist right-wing views on its editorial page and in its news coverage.
Chris Reen, publisher of The Oklahoman and President of The Oklahoman Media Company, announced the new arrangement this week in a rather cryptic statement. The move will result in the elimination of 65 full-time and 65 part-time positions, according to the announcement, and there will be “other manufacturing changes.”
Before I give my first take on the overall announcement, I want to wish anyone losing their jobs or getting their lives disrupted by this all the best.
So here’s my take:
(1) Print newspapers are dying, dying and . . . Printed newspapers. Why? They don’t click. They don’t contain video. They have shorter stories with less substance and no easy access to references through links. They are not up to date on breaking news. Perhaps, the most telling statement in the announcement is that printing in Tulsa will mean “there will be earlier press times which will impact some late-night news stories and sports scores.” In other words, the newspaper won’t consider the printed copy as an urgent news source for its readers. What a great selling point.
(2) Tulsa wins. OKC loses. The Tulsa World announcement stressed that because of the move it would be adding jobs, which will include “27 full-time jobs and 56 part-time positions.” In an overall economic sense, this means little, but it does carry some symbolic value in the rivalry between the two cities. It says, on a small level, that Tulsa is on the move, and Oklahoma City is retrenching, but it goes beyond than that, which I discuss in my next point.
(3) Does this mean The Oklahoman is no longer the state newspaper? The Oklahoman has always offered itself up as the state’s largest and main newspaper. Can it still do so when it’s actually printed in Tulsa by the newspaper there? I don’t think so. The Oklahoman might have the most comprehensive news web site in the state, but this announcement means its printed newspaper is no longer king of the road. Essentially, it has to be printed in Tulsa because it doesn’t have enough paying subscribers for a new press.
(4) Just what does “other manufacturing changes” mean? The announcement referred to these manufacturing changes in a rather generic manner. Patrick Riley, who publishes The Lost Ogle, reports that what it means is that an Austin-based company is taking over the design and copy editing of the newspaper. If this is the case, why didn’t the company just announce it? That doesn’t seem like a trustworthy move by the state’s main newspaper.
— The Lost Ogle (@TheLostOgle) June 9, 2016
(5) When will The Oklahoman get sold again? I’ll predict, and I have no inside information about this, that The Oklahoman, or basically NewsOK.com, will get sold soon after these new streamlining changes don’t produce a financial panacea, or maybe such a sale is already in the works and this is just a preliminary foundation for it. The outsourcing costs will eventually go up, for sure, and news content will get reduced even more. What we’ll be left with is click bait and sports coverage and links to stories behind the paywall of the Tulsa World. The current owner, Philip Anschutz, a Colorado billionaire, certainly hasn’t seemed real invested in the community here since he bought the newspaper from the Gaylord family in 2011.
The mainstream media in many markets just wasn’t quick enough or savvy enough to respond to the Internet explosion. The main problem for Oklahoma in this overall downward spiral of the media is losing the work of reporters who cover news beats, such as the courts, the police, the legislature and on and on. I recognize that as a problem that will probably need to be solved by our public universities and other non-profit entities.