Thursday, May 14, 2009

Opinion: Hiking, Drinking and News at Adirondack Papers

Why, in a time of newspaper shrinkage — in circulation, ads, staff, content — are local papers creating new vehicles for fluff? The Adirondack Daily Enterprise this month launched an outdoor-oriented bimonthy (it’s possible some stories were missed by one, two, three or four of the park’s other outdoor-oriented bi/monthlies). The 16-page tabloid is called Embark. Now we hear that around Memorial Day the Glens Falls Post-Star will begin publishing a new weekly called the Edge, for the Lake George area. 

Here’s what an Edge staffer blogged that the thing (not magazine, not quite shopper, not newspaper) will be covering: “It will be around 16 pages of light-hearted feature stories such as weekly Q and As with bartenders.” The dailies are not hiring new reporters or investing in high production values for these throw-away publications. They take staff away from covering issues and redirect them to hike Mount Marcy or flab about how crazy their friends got at Lemon Peel the other night. That’s not news. It’s killing trees to put the most trivial of blog content to paper. 

Admittedly blogs should have better things to do than dogpile on print media in a time of hardship (here, here, here and here are some of the dailies’ own accounts of budget cuts). I don’t aim to join that pack. Most online news sources would be nothing without the hustle and dig that real reporters give them to link and amplify; herein should be the strength and future of newspapers. Anyone with an opinion and a laptop can have a blog, but it takes a business plan, structure and a good staff to provide timely, well-edited coverage of courts, cops, public policy and yes sports on a multicounty level.

I subscribe to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and depend on it for a lot of information. It needn’t care what I think, but the fact that only two out of sixteen pages of Embark are covered with ads while the front page of the paper has been filling space with photographs of tree branches and worms should tell the publisher something.

I also like the Post-Star. It has some of the best journalists in the North Country and Capital Region and did especially solid reporting on the Lake George Ethan Allen tragedy. The paper gets competition from the alternately interesting and weird weekly the Chronicle, whose publisher’s personality comes through loud and clear, giving it kind of a bloggy voice. But the Chronicle is nowhere near as informative. It’s unfortunate to see the Post-Star moving in that direction. Edge, a crayon-font attempt to take ad share away from the excellent but shoestring real community newspaper Lake George Mirror, seems ill-advised at best, mercenary at worst, wasteful either way. If the Post-Star will be editorializing about how important the existence of newspapers is to our democracy, I hope it will then explain why it’s squandering diminishing resources to cannibalize a colleague. 

Related Stories


Mary Thill lives in Saranac Lake and has worked alternately in journalism and Adirondack conservation for three decades.




10 Responses

  1. John Warren says: