-By Warner Todd Huston
For the Minneapolis Post, columnist John Reinan has a very interesting piece noting that many once powerful city newspapers are being forced by industry loses to abandon their palatial, decades old headquarters buildings.
Many of these buildings are grand, often classically built, downtown mainstays that once told a city that the newspaper contained within was a vital part of a city's life, but newspapers just can't afford to run these huge places anymore. This, Reinan feels, is another symptom of an industry shrinking away to nothing.
Reinan looked around the country and found that many once big time daily newspapers have been forced to move to digs definitely less high-end. Among the many downscalers, he found the Oakland Tribune, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Philly Inquirer, the Philly Daily News, the Des Moines Register, the Indianapolis Star, and many more have left the buildings that were once known as centers of power and prestige only to seek refuge in lower rent buildings in a possible last ditch effort to remain viable.
The newest evidence of the fall of Old Media empires makes Reinan sad and more than a bit reflective.
I can’t help but view these real-estate changes as a metaphor for the overall role of newspapers in our society. They once were commanding civic institutions, owned by local businesspeople who expressed their pride and influence by constructing grand buildings to house their media properties.
Now they’re ... No longer a symbol of local power and influence, the newspaper building is merely an economic asset on a balance sheet, to be disposed of when it becomes a drain on profits.
Reinan pins these woes on corporate masters that are uncaring towards the work of good newspapers. I think Reinan is wrong to imagine that this latest example of the decline in the influence of once powerful newspapers is just the penny pinching of corporate bean counters, though.
It's far more than that. Conservatives like to say that it is proof that the papers’ bias is coming back to haunt them, of course. But honestly it is more than that, too. After all, it isn’t just newspapers that have fallen in this digital age. It's the entire printing industry, not just that of the news industry. Thousands of regular printing companies that have nothing to do with news gathering have disappeared over the last 20 years, too.
In any case, Reinan is exactly right to note that with so many newspapers being forced to leave their once grand palaces, self-built in tribute to their own power and importance this great Diaspora most certainly is another symptom of the decline of the Old Media.