Pat Butler: It’s not bad news for all newspapers |

Pat Butler: It’s not bad news for all newspapers

Newspaper circulation declines, the headlines screamed this week.

According to the Newspaper Association of America, circulation is down 2.6 percent in the six-month period that ended in March. Sunday circulation is down 3.1 percent.

The big losers are the big papers, according to Audit Bureau data. For example, the San Francisco Chronicle is down 15.6 percent to 398,246 subscribers. The Los Angeles Times is down 5.4 percent to 851,832, the Washington Post 3.7 percent to 724,242 and the Wall Street Journal 1 percent to 2,049,786.

Fortunately, The Union is bucking a trend that concerns the entire newspaper industry. In 2005, our circulation grew by nearly 500 subscribers to 16,984.

We also have more than 21,000 registered online viewers, which includes around 7,000 regular readers.

Why are we adding subscribers while the big metro newspapers lose them?

Our biggest advantage is that we know what kind of paper we need to be to grow. Our niche is local news and our goal is to deliver as much of it as humanely possible to our readers.

The large newspapers, meanwhile, seem to be struggling to redefine themselves. Are they local newspapers, regional newspapers, national newspapers or something else?

Readers also don’t seem as connected to the larger papers for obvious reasons. When those papers are covering national politics or the war, they also find themselves in competition with scores of other media.

My week in Reno

I spent three days and part of a fourth attending company meetings with publishers, ad directors, marketing directors and other editors in Reno. The discussion naturally centered around the future of the newspaper industry and how we remain viable in a constantly evolving marketplace.

Swift Communications is a privately owned company with newspapers in Truckee, the Tahoe region, Nevada, Colorado and Oregon. We are all among the community newspapers that still wake up and see sunshine in the mornings.

Our plans include a renewed commitment to local news and at the same time adding new features to our Web sites. You will certainly be hearing more about this in the next few weeks.

And I wish I could say what happens in Reno stays in Reno, but media executives evidently know little about junkets. It was all work and no play unless you consider meal time eatertainment.

Strange politics

The Cathy Wilcox-Barnes situation took a bizarre turn this week when her opponent in the city clerk’s race said at Tuesday’s Nevada City council meeting that she had been deputized by the incumbent.

The next day Wilcox-Barnes told reporter Josh Singer that she did indeed deputize Yolanda Bachtell rather than the deputy city clerk while the city conducts an investigation into her other, nonelected position. What’s even more interesting is that she didn’t have to step down from her elected position.

This is a new chapter in what is an already complicated situation. First, it is unusual to see an elected official work in another position in the same government, which Wilcox-Barnes has been doing as the city clerk and the office operations supervisor. The incumbent herself has said the two jobs have kind of morphed into one, which means the lines of authority have likely been blurred at city hall.

City Manager Mark Miller’s decision to suspend Wilcox-Barnes from her nonelected position startled many in the community. The deputization of Bachtell leaves others scratching their heads and just adds to the mystery at city hall.

Highway 49

Just days before the county learned it may receive $5.3 million in state highway money with no strings attached, 31-year-old Noah Richins became the latest random victim on Highway 49. He was driving his disabled mother to the grocery store when another car crossed the center line and slammed into his vehicle.

Noah died 15 minutes later, according to authorities. The other driver is suspected of being under the influence of drugs or falling asleep before the crash.

This is a grim reminder that no matter how great a job the CHP does on that highway, innocent people will continue to die until a concrete barrier is installed.

While many seem to believe that the Dorsey Interchange project is key to relieving our congestion pains, our elected officials need to keep Highway 49 on the radar screen. I’m still skeptical that a $500,000 speed-bump project will make a route that is traveled by thousands each day much safer.

Copyright concerns

Some readers want to post entire stories from other newspapers in the comments section of our Web site. We will not post these stories in order to avoid copyright violations, which can lead to unexpected charges for the newspaper. Links to stories, on the other hand, can be posted after we review where the link takes our readers.

Any efforts at playing gatekeeper to the comments section leads to the inevitable uproar from some posters who will claim that we are being censors, which is not the case. Our government still permits other ways to express yourself.

In a more immediate sense, I don’t believe posting a story that may or may not be in an appropriate context is commentary, which is what we are looking for in the comments section. In addition to the legal concerns, I have no idea if these stories have been tampered with by the person who posts them.


Pat Butler is the editor of The Union. He can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 477-4235.

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