Saving McClatchy in the time of vanishing newspapers

6 years ago by in 2013

The McClatchy Co. publishes 30 daily newspapers with their related print and digital operations in communities from Alaska to Florida.

By Nima Tamaddon

The death of newspapers, by cutbacks and outright disappearance, might not be newsy anymore, but the amount of effort the newspaper industry, such as McClatchy, is putting in to transform into web mobile platforms could be.

Last month, Julie Moos, a veteran online journalist, joined the McClatchy Co.’s Washington bureau as the senior digital editor to oversee such transformation in a publishing company that operates 30 daily newspapers nationwide.

After a decade working at the Poynter Institute, the online school that teaches ethics and best practices of modern journalism, Moos doesn’t believe the industrial age of journalism is over.

Photo courtesy of

Julie Moos: Journalism is still in such a transitional stage that I don’t think it’s necessarily post-anything.

Photo courtesy of

“There is certainly a contingency that believes that, but I think journalism is still in such a transitional stage that I don’t think it’s necessarily post-anything,” Moos says, in a phone interview from her office at McClatchy Washington bureau.
“I think it’s a little premature to declare that [journalism] completely moved through one stage and it’s in another.”

The latest edition of the Pew Research Center’s annual State of the Media Report, released in March 2013, said the rapid growth of mobile platforms put a lot of pressure on news organizations.
The report also shows the newspaper industry is down significantly, particularly in terms of employment — 30 percent since 2000.
The majority of people surveyed for the report, around 60 percent of the respondents, said they have heard “little or nothing about the financial problems besetting news organizations,” according to the Pew Research Center.

This finding didn’t surprise David Carr, the New York Times media columnist, who recently in an interview with MinnPost, poked fun at that notion.
“People don’t care about newspapers. I write about newspapers all the time, and if I put the word ‘newspapers’ in the lead of a column, that thing dives like a rock,” Carr said. “I’ve got to put Jesus, a gay dinosaur and puppy into a lead about newspapers to hold their attention.”

On the other hand, “if there is one hopeful sign for news,” the report states, “it is that the U.S. audience still turns to the legacy newspapers, TV stations and cable channels they have long known.”

McClatchy photo Financially, the two legacy print platforms—newspapers and magazines—continued to see revenue declines in 2012, while gains in television mask longer-term challenges. And digital experienced weaker gains than in 2011.
How a legacy media such as McClatchy, with more than 150 years history, can embrace digital journalism, in a time that strong brands with solid reputations still matter, according to the State of Media Report.

To Moos, there are a lot of ways at a lot of levels to do so. She says McClatchy is interested in leveraging all of those options to serve the 30 communities where they have papers, because the style of news delivery has been changed, and it’s more dependent on digital delivery. Now, each one of those McClatchy newspapers has its own unique iPhone app.
“There are obviously new mobile opportunities both with smartphones and tablets to make news available to people, wherever they are, whenever they want it, and to provide them with different immersive story experiences,” says Moos.

In addition to new opportunities to create story forms that are different both “visually and interactively on the web,” Moos says, there are also new ways for legacy news organizations to reach people socially whether they are on Facebook catching up with family and friends or exchanging links.

What she mentioned based on her experience, regarding social media, is a major trend identified by the State of Media Report which states, “Hearing about things in the news from friends and family, whether via social media or actual word of mouth, leads to deeper news consumption.”
McClatchy survived a sharp downturn during the past decade. In the mid-2000s, before the company acquired Knight Ridder, its share price was above $75. In late 2008, with the recession that began that year, McClatchy’s share price dropped below $1.5, and the company was forced to sell several newspapers.

With all that in mind, Moos believes that the transitional period of journalism is still on the way and that is the main reason why she personally is not ready to declare that the journalism on the whole is post anything yet.

McClatchy photo 1-digital-grows-again-as-a-source-for-news

“Not only because it’s still in transition, but also different parts of the news industry are different parts of that transition,” she says. “So you have this overall disruption that is going on mostly universally with business, and how people get their news and information, and then how we provide it.”
For the next edition of the State of Media Report, as an expert in digital journalism, Moos expects certain transitions to continue, like further paywalls and subscription models.
“I expect that mobile consumption of news to increase as the trend has been and same for social. There is one thing that it is a kind of intriguing and I wouldn’t predict which way it is going to go,” she says, referring to a new trend of online long format reporting which started with the “Snow Fall” at the New York Times.

“I think that form of native digital storytelling will certainly continue to grow and more news organizations will experiment with it. We have already seen some at that the Washington Post and other places experimented with that more immersive form of storytelling,” she says.
What she thinks is interesting is that both independent trends of social flow of information and long format reporting are rapidly growing.
“I don’t know if they would move toward some middle ground or if they will continue independent of each other, which may might.”

McClatchy in the course of history.

Interactive journalist based in Washington, D.C.