Teaching Examples

The newspaper business in Florida
April 11, 2007, 12:37 pm
Filed under: business, Florida, newspapers, online

There are 204 newspapers in the Florida Press Association (which provides handy links to the newspapers’ Web sites). Of those, 46 are dailies. The State Library of Florida lists 55 dailies in our state (also with links).

One is a truly great newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times (circ. 327,390). It’s often held up as a model for its independence, as a result of the legacy of Nelson Poynter, whose dad bought the Times in 1912. The younger Poynter went on to buy the paper’s stock from his father and also became its editor. His conviction: “There is a direct relationship between excellence and profit” (source). When he died, Nelson Poynter bequeathed all his stock in the newspaper to the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit educational institution.

Five others are large newspapers: The Miami Herald (circ. 316,158), the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (circ. 252,139), The Tampa Tribune (circ. 226,315), the Orlando Sentinel (circ. 221,184) and The Florida Times-Union (circ. 172,901). (Source for circulation numbers.) You can argue about whether they are great or were once great. They are owned by these newspaper chains, respectively: McClatchy Co., Tribune Co., Media General, Tribune Co. and Morris Communications Co. (For many years, Knight Ridder slowly squeezed the Herald until it had almost nothing left.)

A couple (the Naples Daily News, for innovation, and the Fort Myers News-Press, for its mojos) have garnered widespread attention for their online work. Scripps owns the Naples paper. Gannett owns the Fort Myers paper.

Florida used to be touted as the epicenter of convergence. Executives from newspapers in other states paid big bucks to come here on field trips and look at the fancy buildings where TV and print journalists mingled in the same newsroom.

But today, when 70 employees of The Tampa Tribune are losing their jobs, I have to think that Nelson Poynter was right.

It’s not that independence or private ownership will automatically save newspapers. And I don’t think it’s impossible for a chain-owned newspaper to be good. But I do believe that excellence will lead to profit. Excellence in content, in journalism, in reporting. Excellence in public service. Excellence in usability — and utility.

Profit seeking for its own sake can never lead to excellence.

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2 Comments so far
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Oh, the pain of being excluded! My own employer ain’t too shabby. More importantly in this instance, The Post is owned by a gigantic, widely diversified, privately held company.

Comment by William M. Hartnett

Aw, heck, I did not realize The Palm Beach Post was that big!! I was trying to list all papers over 150,000 circ. Sorry!! Thanks for the fact check. And you guys are doing some super NICE work online lately too!

Comment by Mindy McAdams

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