Two generations ago, most major American cities had a variety of daily newspapers. There were at least two morning papers, each publishing multiple updated editions through the course of the day, and a couple of afternoon papers as well. Each paper had a distinct editorial slant and a “personality” of its own.
Then the hyphenations began, as the Timeses merged with the Heralds and the Globes acquired the Tribunes, absorbing staff and subscribers from their former rivals. By the ’60s and ’70s, most major American cities had no more than two papers -– often owned by the same company, though maintaining a pretense of independence.
The American public now has fewer newspapers to choose from, but radio and television have helped fill the void -– with greater immediacy and timeliness. With the advent of the internet, the supply of news sources has exploded, weekly and niche publications such as The West Virginia Record are flourishing, as the hard-copy daily newspaper continues to decline.
Is the decline of the daily paper something to be lamented? Yes, when viewed as a loss for America’s free press. No, when viewed in a broader historical context. Who mourns the passing of the town crier? Since written records first eclipsed oral tradition, new media have replaced old media, and anyone who wants to prevent this progression will first have to keep the sun from rising tomorrow.
Judge John Copenhaver apparently wants to command the tides of change to recede, but he’ll have no more luck than King Canute.
Last week, Judge Copenhaver issued an antitrust ruling that seeks to reinvigorate the Charleston Daily Mail, which was acquired by the owners of the Charleston Gazette and destined for extinction. Placing onerous burdens on a publisher to maintain a paper that is no longer popular or profitable makes no sense whatsoever. The most likely outcome of this presumptuous micromanaging could be the demise of both papers.
If Judge Copenhaver wants to be a publisher, he should hang up his robes and start his own paper — or make an offer for the Daily Mail.