By Mike Rhodes
On Feb. 13, The McClatchy Co. filed for bankruptcy. McClatchy is the owner of the Fresno Bee, the primary newspaper in this community for my entire life. Also, I worked as a printer at the Bee for 14 years. My grandfather worked for the Bee when he was a young man in the 1930s.
The collapse of the Bee is not an isolated case in the newspaper industry. More than 2,000 newspapers in the United States have closed in the past 15 years, according to the Brookings Institution.
The transition to digital media is the primary cause—most young people get their news on social media, advertising has moved to the Internet and subscriptions to the Bee fell 58.6% from 2006 to 2018. Advertising sales are down 80%. The old way of doing business is not sustainable.
The Bee ended daily delivery recently (dropping Saturday), and the collapse of its stock, going from $740 a share in 2016 to 75 cents a share today calls into question the future of locally written news printed in a newspaper. The bankruptcy of McClatchy will probably signal the end of their pension of which I and 24,500 other current and past employees counted on for their retirement.
After working at the Bee, I became editor of the Community Alliance newspaper and have returned as a board member and writer. The Bee’s bankruptcy should remind us all of the value of local alternative/independent journalism. We are under many of the same financial challenges as the Bee: Declining advertising, an uphill struggle to maintain subscribers and the ever-present drumbeat of the digital revolution.
If you have not yet subscribed, donated or become a monthly sustainer, now would be an excellent time to do so. You can subscribe online (https://fresnoalliance.com/subscribe/) or mail in the subscription form printed in this paper.
If the Community Alliance is going to survive, we will need your support now and we must begin a transition to using social media platforms and making our Web site more user-friendly. Join us as we trailblaze a path to local journalism’s digital future.
*****Mike Rhodes is on the editorial board of the Community Alliance newspaper, a member of the Central Valley Progressive PAC and author of the book Dispatches from the War Zone about homelessness in Fresno. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org