Written by Donald A. Promintz
The Fresno Bee is still going strong, but the same can’t be said for its Saturday print edition.
In fact, according to Tim Ritchey, publisher at the Bee, they’ve made the decision to cancel this edition starting in January 2020, moving the Saturday stories online. They’ll also be expanding the Friday and Sunday print editions to compensate.
“The news industry is undergoing a major transition from a print-dominated business to a digital one,” Ritchey said. “We are growing our digital audience and digital subscribers.”
But the Bee is just the latest in a trend of McClatchy Co.-owned papers to make this decision.
This year, McClatchy has authorized the cancellation of Saturday print editions of The Durham Herald Sun (Durham, North Carolina), The Myrtle Beach Sun News (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina), The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kansas) and The Bellingham Herald (Bellingham, Washington). Instead of print, McClatchy will publish an online edition.
Tim Drachlis, Tatarian journalism chair at Fresno State and a veteran newspaper journalist, said the decision to cut Saturday makes the most sense from an economic standpoint. Traditionally, Saturday and Monday papers are the ones with the least circulation.
“People generally on Saturdays go do things, they go out and about, they go shopping, they go to the park,” Drachlis said. “They don’t spend a lot of time in the day — in the morning especially — reading the paper.”
Because of shrinking readership and decline in ad revenue, it can reach the point where the logistical costs of printing and distributing the paper can no longer be effectively covered by the profits. However, Drachlis argues that despite the drop in prominence for the print edition, the news itself isn’t going anywhere — it just needs to evolve. Whatever the situation, he said, people still need and want to be informed about current events. As a result, online news is growing, with paywalls being increasingly used to drive up subscriptions.
Still, the age of the newspaper isn’t over, and is even necessary for many news publications, Drachlis said. Oftentimes, including in the case of The Fresno Bee, it’s becoming the norm to introduce print and online news together. It can take time — especially for a publication with a smaller area of readers — to build a large enough following of paid subscribers online, meaning that releases of the paper on marketable days like Wednesday, Friday and Sunday are not only still viable, but the lifeblood of the publishers.
Journalists, he added, aren’t necessarily going away either.
“Websites at TV stations are growing and they’re hiring people. Websites at newspapers are hiring and growing,” Drachlis said. “So it’s a redistribution of the jobs to a certain degree.”
It was a point agreed upon by Ritchey.
“The method of delivery is evolving, but the mission and importance of local journalism remains the same,” he concurred. “To provide essential news and information to help our community and our neighbors thrive.”