As a reporter at The Cincinnati Post – and a freelancer at that – my eyes get a little wet thinking about its likely impending demise. But every so often I get a glimmer of hope when I hear someone tell me how much they have appreciated The Post over the years. It happens a lot – and by well-known people and everyday citizens. It’s been remarkable and something – whether its nostalgia or honest-to-goodness heartfelt truth – I rarely ever heard reporting for any other paper.
Not that I have anything against The Cincinnati Enquirer. I loved and am thankful for the many years and many times I got to work for and with my colleagues there. I learned a lot about journalism from the copy editors and reporters I pestered incessantly in my days as a copy boy/news aide, geez, starting back in 1998. I am thankful for the internship I had there in 2000 that helped me get jump-started in this profession. In fact, I have some great friends who work there and even more people I do not know well but greatly respect who also work there. I know, as a public, we like to criticize that paper (and that’s a good thing), but so many journalists there are true professionals.
But something happens when a town goes to just one daily newspaper. News cycles tend to follow the newspapers. By their own admission, TV, radio and, well, the hyper-critical Bloggers-know-best cacophony of local Bloggers and aggregate news Web sites follow suit. And with that, one viewpoint. One idea of what’s news. It’s dangerous in our democracy. And now we know, unlike what some predicted the Internet would help solve, the world could still use a few professional journalists carrying the torch.
And, some would rightly say, for the most part, in Cincinnati single-sided news has already happened, despite the fact that The Post is still publishing, albeit with a diet-sized reporting staff.
Next year, The Cincinnati Post’s 30-year-old joint operating agreement with The Cincinnati Enquirer will end. And some would rightly say, so would The Post. Gannett officials informed Scripps executives they have no intention of continuing the agreement. Why would they? Their dunk-and-drown, pillow-over-the-face smothering of The Post has just about done the trick and is nearly complete. (Did you know when the agreement was signed in 1977, The Post had a higher circulation than the Enquirer?)
Hold the press a second. Something is afoot, something rather remarkable. Local newspapers around the country are being bought up by… holy crap!…locals. It has not happened here, like its happening in Los Angeles and Baltimore and elsewhere.
But could it? Maybe.
First, a reporter from the Enquirer came up to me at a news scene and asked whether The Post would be buying The Enquirer. Cute, I thought. But not very funny. Turns out, he was serious – and maybe on to something.
Then, a prominent former politician – just a few weeks later – told me the same thing and added, “I’m helping some Scripps investors accomplish this.” A few weeks later, I confirmed discussions were happening with the Scripps family and Scripps executives and Gannett officials about this very deal. Scripps owns both The Cincinnati Post and The Kentucky Post and WCPO-TV locally, plus own a wide array of successful cable networks such as DIY Television, The Food Network and Home & Garden Television, along with a bunch of others.
Scripps analysts hate the newspaper business. But they love that cable operation. Scripps family stockholders love the newspaper business and, I would assume, love the money, but maybe aren’t so thrilled with the cable business, or so I am told. Hmmm.
Things got more interesting when another, different prominent local politician said a group of business people are working to buy The Post when the JOA ends. They would like to run The Post head-to-head in the morning against the Enquirer. I like that idea even more.
Is it a long shot? Probably. Impossible? Not at all. Profitable? Tough to say. But, for now, the talk is good news all around. Especially with the information that people around the country – those with the capabilities to do so – are buying up newspapers for the common good. Stay tuned. Or, ahem, keep reading…