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Detroit's newspapers to downsize. What's lost when that happens?

Nov 18, 2016

This week, we learned the owners of the Detroit News were offering buy-outs to all of the newspaper’s editorial staff. Then, later in the week, we learned the owners of the Detroit Free Press were offering buy-outs to 17 editorial staff.

Without enough buy-outs, both papers will lay off staff.

This downsizing worries those who fear the eventual death of one of our daily-print newspapers.

In fact, there are fewer than a dozen towns left in the United States with two daily papers.

"It's kind of like going from being able to get multiple viewpoints and coverage that doesn't overlap and then suddenly your dominant view is a two-dimensional sort of flat screen."

Seattle, Washington used to be one of those towns, but no longer. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer became online-only, leaving only the Seattle Times printing a daily paper.

Knute Berger, Editor-at-Large and columnist for Seattle Magazine, said a city without two daily papers loses “the ability to see the city in three dimensions.”

“It’s kind of like going from being able to get multiple viewpoints and coverage that doesn’t overlap and then suddenly  your dominant view is a two-dimensional, sort of flat screen,” Berger said. “And I think it’s a real loss.”

When a paper is lost, a gap in coverage can be created. And that could be an opportunity for scammers – fake news creators – to step in.

“Fake news is not a new thing, but certainly it’s kind of a virus that’s infected social media in a way that we haven’t quite seen before,” Berger said.

He said daily newspapers, in contrast, have established credibility throughout their years of operation. In the age of fake news, Berger said, that fact-oriented coverage is an additional loss.

Listen above for the full conversation.

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