Earlier this week, I had heard a rumor that the Davis Enterprise was reducing its print operations down to three days a week, with the hope of maintaining the website as a 24/7 news operation. It really hasn’t been in the last few years where it is rare for new stories to appear on Saturday or Monday.
My reaction was disbelief that they would see this as a viable way forward. I know that print journalism is struggling, but my sense had been that most newspapers, while struggling in the new era of the internet, had kind of found their niche.
But this morning, first thing when I checked the Enterprise website to see what they were reporting on today, I saw the notice from Burt McNaughton, publisher, and Debbie Davis, editor and assistant publisher, that confirmed the rumor.
They write: “Newspapers everywhere continue to struggle financially, and The Davis Enterprise — one of the last family-owned newspapers in Northern California — is no exception.
“The changing landscape of information-sharing — from online classified ads to ubiquitous social media — has affected our ability to produce a quality product five days a week. We have not resorted to outsourcing our graphics and circulation management overseas, as most of our competitors have done, but we must make some changes to enhance our financial viability.
“Accordingly, we will reduce our print editions to three days a week beginning in January — printing on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only. We believe this change is the right fit for a thriving community newspaper and it will allow The Enterprise to establish a sustainable business model.”
They add, “We have been an important presence in the city of Davis for 118 years, and this change will put us in good stead to be around for another 118 years. Carrying forward that mission are members of the latest generation of the McNaughtons, a four-generation newspaper family.”
They continue, “The Enterprise will remain a 24/7 news operation, posting breaking news, sports, features and arts to our website, which is undergoing an overhaul. Readers will be able to find up-to-date information even on days we don’t print, along with Bob Dunning’s popular column, “The Wary I,” online Tuesdays and Thursdays and in print on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. We’ll start the new year with an exciting new look and all the relevant and insightful content you’ve come to expect from us.”
I have several reactions to this. As much as the Vanguard has been a critic of the Enterprise, we feel that the loss of the daily newspaper is tragic.
The Vanguard really does not seek to compete with the Enterprise – we have a different mission and a different business model.
The Enterprise covers everything in the community from traditional news to entertainment to sports. The Vanguard is a niche entity, covering almost exclusively local political news and commentary in Davis and the region. We also have increasing, and will increasingly have in the future, community outreach – candidate’s forums and other panel discussions as a way to engage the community in a two-way dialogue.
The Vanguard runs as a non-profit, relying heavily on donors with some advertising thrown into the mix. We have a small staff, just having hired a couple of news reporters, and a small office.
While having little overhead in terms of printing facilities has enabled us to survive, it has also been a strong limitation. There is still large segment of the community that reads print newspapers, is uncomfortable with the internet, and prefers to sit and read paper rather than a computer screen, smart phone or tablet. Perhaps the day is coming when people will read their tablets like they read their newspaper, but people are always asking me if we would consider doing an occasional print edition.
I’m not going to pretend to know the Enterprise’s business model, but I wish they would have engaged the community in a discussion before entering into some sort of drastic change.
Perhaps they are right – this is the way to ensure vitality for the next century, but I just don’t know.
—David M. Greenwald reporting