A Curmudgeon’s Prediction: Newspapers Coming Back

January 14th, 2011 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

By Denise Tessier

For years, I’ve enjoyed Dale Dauten’s “Corporate Curmudgeon,” a King Features Syndicate column run by the Albuquerque Journal’s Business Outlook.

Monday’s (Jan. 10) installment — which, according to the column, is Dauten’s second-to-last after more than 20 years — included a string of paragraphs summarizing some of what Dauten says he’s learned over time. As usual, his quips are good, but one graph in particular caught my eye:

Watching television these days feels like going to a low-rent carnival. Everyone is shouting at you, grabbing at you, grease-smiling and cheese-baiting . . . and that’s just the talk shows. Is there any guest on any late-night show who isn’t selling something? Anyone who isn’t telling stories written by an image team? Now the people who brought you TV are taking over the Internet. No wonder newspapers, both online and in print, are about to make a comeback.

Did you catch that last line?

“. . . newspapers, both online and in print, are about to make a comeback.”

The comeback of newspapers– online or print – is the fond hope harbored by many of us who’ve watched the closure of the Albuquerque Tribune, the downsizing of the New Mexico Independent and the shrinking of the Albuquerque Journal to a slim remnant of its former self. (Danger of further downsizing, I fear, lurks still, as Internet sites have sprung up to take over Legal Notices, the bread and butter of  both small-town newspapers and bigger ones like the Journal.)

Since the “comeback” statement comes from Dauten (whose smart and informed columns during my Journal years, I wished — in vain — the paper’s management would have read and perhaps taken to heart), I find renewed hope that newspapers not only will make a comeback, but that this phenomenon is already in the works.

Providing further encouragement for me are recent issues of the Journal itself. I’d like to piggyback on my colleague Tracy Dingmann’s complimentary comment on Thom Cole’s (Jan. 12) Harrison Schmitt column, which, along with his previous (Jan. 5) column on Susana Martinez’s questionable hiring questionnaire give this reader the impression Cole is relishing a break from digging dirt on former Gov. Bill Richardson and literally breaking out into more interesting territory. The change is engaging and refreshing. To provide just one other example, Leslie Linthicum’s column Thursday (Jan. 13), “In War of Words, Guilty Consciences Lurk,” is one of her best, even-handed and thoughtful in tone.

But I can’t let any more time pass before also mentioning what a lucid bedrock Winthrop Quigley is to the state’s leading daily. On Jan. 2, a week before Sarah Palin got caught up in the swirl of news created by Saturday’s shootings in Tucson, she was already making Journal headlines when the paper gave conservative anti-government columnist Cal Thomas its widest circulation audience by running a Sunday column that began with this contention: “Sarah Palin deserves an apology.”

Thomas was referring to the new federal health-care law and Palin’s contention it contains provisions for death panels.  Death panels, Thomas declared, are “not a myth, and that’s where Palin nailed it.” (And therefore, he says, she deserves an apology from naysayers who found no such panel in the law.)

Fortunately, Quigley jumped on Thomas right away with an UpFront column that ran just two days later (which means he worked on it over a weekend). In it, Quigley debunks Thomas’ resurrection of Palin’s death panels with facts and his own reasoning in “Doctor Discussions Hardly a Death Panel.”

I’m sure Quigley expressed the sentiments of many Journal readers when he opened with this lead, saying:

It was probably too much to expect that we might enjoy at least a brief respite, now that the elections are over, from much of the nonsense that passes for public discourse. We managed to get only to the second day of the new year before Cal Thomas revived the death panel canard in his syndicated column, which the Journal publishes.

From this set up introduction, Quigley immediately got into the facts of the health care law and the insidious twists of Thomas’ so-called logic. (Other readers had the same reaction, as the Journal ran a package of five letters in response to Thomas’ column the following Sunday.)

Quigley’s column deserved a national audience, so that the nonsense offered by Thomas, who is nationally syndicated, could be tempered with fact and reason. Instead, only those who subscribe to the Journal (in print or online) have access to this piece. Which is a shame.

But it’s that caliber of writing that give encouragement about the future of the Journal. Trimmed to the bone, it is using more of its shrinking news hole to showcase locally produced work and fewer wire stories. The local-focus trend I noticed over the holidays continues now that the holidays are over. And this is as it should be.  With more Internet and news outlets covering everything else, what better role for the Albuquerque Journal than as hometown newspaper, covering the city (and part of the state) as best it can. It seems with election coverage out of the way, Journal reporters and columnists are fired up and stepping up.

The Op-Ed pages are still a mish mash of questionable-value columns and special interest screeds, and I’m sure we at ABQJournalWatch.com will find fodder for future columns.

But the current line-up of writers and reporters is the best indicator the Journal has a chance for a comeback – especially if any of the subscribers turned off by those screeds decide to give the paper another try.

By the way, Dauten’s not going away, just retiring the curmudgeon (for the most part) to make way for a career advice column, “J.T. and Dale Talk Jobs,” co-written with a career coach, which he says will run in the Corporate Curmudgeon’s usual column space.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Roland

    With the disappearance of the ABQ Tribune, there is no viable competition for the Journal. Without some sort of market check-and-balance, the Journal will just continue to blithely roll over the voters in the Albuquerque area like a Republican blitzkrieg. You keep looking for crumbs of hope with this newspaper, but frankly I don’t believe it. As long as it remains in the control of T.H. Lang, the ABQ Journal will be little more than a mouth-piece for the Republican party (for an enlightening article on this, see: http://newmexicoindependent.com/8221/behind-the-endorsements-another-view). Even with a focus on local news, the Journal manages to politicize silly issues such as the naming of the Big-I after Bill Richardson, and it launched a non-stop campaign against the Rail-Runner. Now that it succeeded in its goal of electing a Republican governor, it will proceed to undermine public education in support of Martinez’s tea-party agenda.

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