PG cutting more than journalists

Sam M. is still out there and passed a note that gets to the future of media. The Tri County Courier Express notes that the Post-Gazette is cutting back distribution across a broad swath of central Pennsylvania where they used to have a presence. I'll add my own plug for Sam's recent book, but also maybe we can get Sam back into his less remunerative blogging enterprise.

It may be an obvious business choice for the PG at this point, but it is more than symbolic in what it means. Lots of efforts out there are trying to redefine what people think Pittsburgh, the region, really is. From one project I am involved with on Pittsburgh Indicators which broadly looks at 22 counties.... to the still nascent Regional Visioning Project which Mike has already talked about which looks to an even wider definition of 'Pittsburgh'.

One semi-formalized definition of the Pittsburgh region that is created by the Department of Commerce are large Economic Areas (EA) which are typically much larger than Metropolitan Statistical Areas we normally talk about. One of the criteria used for defining EAs are the circulation patterns of local media sources. I am told that the working definition of Pittsburgh for the Regional Visioning Project started with what people thought the coverage area is for KDKA radio's flamethrower 50K watt transmitter. I suspect there was a time when KDKA was indeed a major news source well beyond Pittsburgh proper. Hard to believe that is still the case. Now even the PG will not fill any of that role it seems

In the end, the consolidation of media coverage is happening on a lot of levels. Redefining Pittsburgh is only going to be harder if the broader region.... not only across Pennsylvania, but WV, OH and even into MD... does not have the connections they once had to Pittsburgh proper. It may be that we are actually growing more apart than together driven by the other forces at hand.

Update March 31. It seems it is not just the counties farthest from Pittsburgh proper that are losing their Post-Gazette. KDKA is reporting that daily home delivery of the PG is being cut from several closer-in counties that include some within the definition of the MSA.


3 Responses to "PG cutting more than journalists"

Jonathan Potts said... 3/24/2009 9:53 AM

Perhaps the Department of Commerce's definition of EAs has become obsolete in the Internet era.

I understand your concern, but I'm not sure whether the circulation of the print version of the PG really connects outlying areas to the region. Are people in Blair County interested in the machinations of Pittsburgh City Council, or Mark Roosevelt's efforts to reform the Pittsburgh Public Schools? I suspect that people in those counties who read the Post-Gazette do so for the sports.

I'm not arguing that people in those counties shouldn't feel connected to Pittsburgh; I just don't think picking up a hard copy of the Post-Gazette does the trick.

Dennis Roddy said... 3/24/2009 9:32 PM

I have more readers today than at any time in my career. Subscribers, no. But readers. The question is many layered here, but it will ultimately revolve around definition of community and communal identity, and geography, folks, is not destiny.

Not sure what the business model will be for future journalism, but community is as likely to be defined by interest areas, ideology and religious belief as by location. Neighborhoods will be more intense places, but I doubt region will matter greatly, or as greatly as it once did.

Not sure I like it or understand it, but would be interested to hear some other views on this one.

Mike Madison said... 3/24/2009 9:42 PM

Dennis, I'm with you in spirit and in posts --
like this one
("[I]f one were thinking about the future of Pittsburgh news, one might think: How can we monetize that traffic and leverage the Diaspora to save the Post-Gazette?").

That post talked about advertising, and in that post and others I've written about structuring the finances of the paper to support making the e-version the primary product, though not the only one.

I remain convinced that despite well-intentioned efforts, the PG's current online editions leave a lot of value (and money) on the table. I've spoken with both PG editors and PG writers about this question. The editors are divided; some agree with me, some do not. The writers generally agree with me.

That makes me wonder: Is professional journalism's classic labor/management divide making the industry's problems worse?

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