Back in May of 2020, the local Ogden newspapers joined what was already a growing trend among daily newspapers across America, the elimination of at least one day of publishing each week. In Wheeling, that meant that the Saturday edition of the Intelligencer and the Sunday edition of the News-Register would be replaced by the Sunday News-Register which would be published on Saturday.
How has this changeover affected the local news consumer? On the weekend before the changeover, the Saturday Intelligencer carried 15 pages of news and the Sunday News-Register carried 28 pages for a total of 43 pages for the weekend. Despite promises from the editor that readers would lose nothing in the transition, that number has dropped dramatically. This weekend’s News-Register carried only 24 news pages – a 44% decline in just a little over three years.
Not only has the quantity of news declined, the type of news coverage has also dramatically changed. This weekend’s front section featured minimal hard news. For example, the six-page front section was dominated by an interview with West Liberty’s new president, Tim Borchers, which took up 6,000 words or roughly 60% of the section’s news space. Additionally on the front page, Ogden’s political reporter, Steven Allen Adams, described his attendance at Leadership West Virginia which took up another 2,000 words. (Note – both stories have little “hard news” value.) That left 20% of front section space for four actual news stories. Sorry, shouldn’t hard news be given the preference over the thoughts of a new college president and a criminal justice panel? (Yes, cover them but reserve the front page for hard news.) Unfortunately for local readers looking for area news, Ogden prioritizes feature filler to actual news because it usually has a later expiration date and is much cheaper to produce.
Confirmed: It is the same paper
For some reason, I received Friday afternoon’s Wheeling News-Register on Friday morning instead of the morning Wheeling Intelligencer. I checked online and yes, there was a morning Intelligencer with the same stories. What happened? My hunch is that somebody messed up, but the switch confirmed what I’ve always suspected, especially when an important news story breaks in the morning but it doesn’t appear in the News-Register: it’s the same paper, printed at the same time. (Yes, the headlines are reworded, and different syndicated columnists are plugged in, but the rest of the paper is the same.) Why not eliminate one of the papers, then? My hunch is that you can charge advertisers for two papers instead of one.
Celebrating the News-Register’s anniversary
My first reaction to getting the News-Register on Friday morning was that they didn’t want me to miss the republishing of their annual editorial telling us what a great newspaper they are. Of course, it included my favorite line:
We owe no allegiance to any special interest or powerful person.
Yes, of course.
A final thought. Look, I understand newspapers face tough going in what is a rapidly changing news environment. My argument with Ogden is not so much its need to cut costs (which I understand) but rather its continual disdain for its readership in the process of downsizing. I hope to elaborate on this thought in a later post.