Commentary: What a Three-Day Daily Newspaper Means For Davis

Print Newspapers

Print Newspapers

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

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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44 thoughts on “Commentary: What a Three-Day Daily Newspaper Means For Davis”

  1. Barack Palin

    Sad to see.  I usually read the Enterprise online but there’s something to be said about sitting at the patio table with a newspaper in hand sipping a hot cup of coffee.

  2. SODA

    With the Vanguard and the internet by the time I get my Enterprise in the late afternoon, most of the ‘news’ is not news to me. What is valuable however is the calendar and stories of local happenings, activities which I may want to attend. I will miss that part of the the 5 day/week paper and hope it can be a vital part of the the online version. I admit I rarely go to the online version unless I am out of town, but will begin to reprogram.  Assume price is the same?

  3. hpierce

    Ok… I’m a dinosaur… there is something tactile and ‘slightly sensual’ in reading a newspaper.  I tend to take a newspaper with me when I go out to eat alone.  I tend to take the paper into the room where one lets their body get rid of the by-products of the food they’ve eaten.  I need a newspaper (or other reading material) when I’m travelling.  When I travel away from Davis and stay somewhere else, one of my first tasks is to get a hold of a local newspaper (another ‘slightly sensual’ thing) to get a feel of what THAT community is like (ever read the Winnemucca NV paper?  I have!).  Lived in a community where the local paper published twice a week… Tues & Thurs.  Subscribed.  But also had a seven day paper subscription.

    This is bad news for me, re:  the Enterprise.  If they don’t drastically reduce their subscription rates, I’ll have to think long and hard about renewal.  Yeah, I get a lot of my input (think “Johnny Five”) from TV, internet, Sac Bee, etc.  This still somewhat saddens me.  Don’t want to lug my laptop around when I decide to have breakfast or lunch out, alone.  And yeah, I’m such a dinosaur that I have a “stupid phone” as my cel.

  4. Scheney

    I read The Enterprise online on a tablet, so this won’t affect me.  If they expand coverage to 7 days a week, that will be an improvement.  The physical paper on Sunday morning is nice and I hope they continue it.

  5. Jim Frame

    My prediction is that this marks the tipping point at which the Enterprise falls into a rapid demise.   I no longer read the Enterprise religiously; sometimes a whole week goes by and I find that I haven’t opened any of that week’s collection.  Were it not for Sundays (reading it over breakfast at Bernardo) and the coverage of DHS baseball, I may not miss it at all — a sure sign that its relevance to my life has greatly diminished.

    1. PhilColeman

      The tipping point started long time ago. We’re well into the decline phase already, maybe not as rapid as your prediction. But objects starting to fall always gain speed during the descent.

      To say the Enterprise will continue for another Century is truly,  “whistling while passing the graveyard.”

      I’ve already deplored the loss of print media, mainly for its ability to do investigative journalism. Even the largest circulation, syndicated, newspaper chains are taking measures to protect themselves from bankruptcy. The news in in the papers, in the back section, but few know it because few read it.

      Print media supporters, the ones who enjoy the feel of having a newspaper in their hands every day, here’s the reality: Those folks are dying by the tens of thousands every day. Generations following don’t even recognize the sound of the thump of a newspaper on a drive way or porch.

       

      1. Davis Progressive

        losing the printed paper is not a huge deal.  i get the fact that seniors don’t use the internet, but as someone approaching senior-hood, i think more and more that’s going to be not true.  the question is whether the newspaper can be viable without print.

    2. failsafe

      I think that would have already happened if it was going to happen.   This seems like a good move.    I don’t think it needs “religious” readers, otherwise it would have already failed.   Reading it as you do 1/3 of the time, or just the sports section, probably works as a business model.

  6. Michael Harrington

    I’ve subscribed for years.  I like to read it at the office.  All those fun community events I rarely have time to attend, but are fun to read about.  The reduction is bad news for the community.

  7. wdf1

    Does anyone know how much online traffic and revenue they get.  That might offer a definitive answer as to whether the business is shrinking or maybe just migrating its format.  I think the Enterprise might do better with online traffic than the Woodland paper.  The Davis paper hasn’t published so few days per week since the 1960’s.  In 1965 they went from 2 days/week to 5 days.

  8. Davis Progressive

    i have basically stopped reading the enterprise.  the reporting is bad – there are major mistakes and they rarely correct them.  i understand why having the paper would be important to many but the product has been declining.

    1. Biddlin

      ” the reporting is bad – there are major mistakes and they rarely correct them.  ”

      Yep. The style is also dreadful.

      It is still a bad omen when a town loses its local newspaper, because that means community’s voice is quieter and less likely to rally citizens to a cause or to be heard in the larger world.

      ;>)/

  9. Anon

    One of the biggest problems I see with the Davis Enterprise decreasing its print version from 5 to 3 days a week, but keeping its online version up and running 7 days a week, is that a lot of senior citizens do not have computers, so need the print version.  Very unfortunate development.

  10. odd man out

    The Daily Democrat appears to publish 6 days/week (not on Monday). It’s not a McNaughton paper. Any thoughts as to why the Woodland paper hasn’t cut back on printing?

     

    1. wdf1

      When I have read the Daily Democrat, I have thought their local coverage to be terrible.  If I were living in Woodland, I think I would have a hard time justifying reading that paper.

  11. failsafe

    Everyone like to say “Yeah, but…The Internet” as if it is the magic source of free good information.   This is the argument of people who did not grow up with the web.     People, even journalists, deserve a living wage.

  12. Alan Miller

    The Enterprise reducing to tri-weekly is unfortunate for the community.  A often-printed source of local information is a community positive.  One of the difficulties with internet information culture is that people subscribe to specific topics of interest.  The disadvantage to this is they are not exposed to a wider issue base.  As well, the source is often from websites biased to their political leaning, thus reducing further exposure to broader ideas.

    Today on the UC Davis campus there is no printed paper.   When the Aggie was published students were seen all about campus reading the newspaper.  Now, many students do not even know there is an on-line version of “The Aggie”.  This has reduced the ability of students to communicate issue of interest to other students, as the internet filter of interest self-limits what is seen by others.  While convenient to focus on topics of interest, again the broader view is lost.  Losing the printed Aggie is a tragedy for UC Davis students, and many students believe it was orchestrated to keep students uninformed.

    With loss of two more days per week of Enterprise, and many articles now never being printed, much information will be lost to those who do not go on line for their local news.  This cannot be seen by anyone to be a good thing.  A wise man once said, “you cannot cut your way to prosperity”.  I had thought the Enterprise had stabilized at their current level after the newspaper downsizings of a few years ago.  I fear with this move the Enterprise may be entering a death spiral.

    Woe is Davis.

  13. Scheney

    With the physical paper being printed three days a week, people will still be able to see upcoming events, etc.  I’ve heard The Enterprise referred to as the “Emptyprise.”  Perhaps fewer issues will have more robust content in each published issue.  Online content will allow breaking news while stories develop and become more of a source for people.

    1. tj

      “Robust Content” –  Upper management at the Enterprise informed me tartly a couple of years ago that they know what to print and what not to report to keep the local powers happy.

      Perhaps this approach to news reporting has backfired and alienated potential subscribers who prefer the day’s news not be censored before the paper is printed.

      1. CalAg

        Something with a vibrant 25-55 demographic, a strong rate of job growth, a modest rate of housing growth, a dynamic redevelopment and renovation market, a robust migration of UCD student housing and traditional university R&D/office functions back to the campus, a thriving multi-generational downtown, and a healthy well-financed portfolio of public infrastructure and amenities.

    1. Miwok

      The internet is part of the problem for them, and local papers printing something on the internet, or something the Bee publishes, is why they are in decline. Picking up three newspapers doesn’t give you three times the content. And if you want Davis news, the Enterprise is not the only source. They fail to realize they could task their reporters with getting stories unique to their town, instead of sending someone to the capitol every day, for example.

      1. wdf1

        Miwok:  They fail to realize they could task their reporters with getting stories unique to their town, instead of sending someone to the capitol every day, for example.

        The Enterprise sends a reporter to the capitol every day?  I didn’t know that.  Who’s the reporter?

  14. Don Shor

    As one who has written for the Enterprise for a number of years — now through three rounds of changes and staff cuts — I can tell you that they have significantly upgraded their web presence over the last year or so. It used to be that people couldn’t even find my archived columns using the search function. Now the key words are there, it’s all streamlined, and they seem to be upgrading the quality of their online advertising as well.

    If the current team that has brought them forward stays with them, gets the resources to stay on top of the breaking news and become the local resource for current events that way, and continues to work on the process of ‘monetizing’ it, they can probably strike the right balance by providing a physical copy for the old folks while having the faster-changing news there for the rest of us.

    1. CalAg

      I’m pretty sure the Enterprise has outsourced their search to a subscription service – my understanding is that you have to use a terminal in the Enterprise office or the public library if you don’t want to subscribe to the service. Their model of premium online services (including archive access via search) to print subscribers was not great but okay while it lasted. IMO the current online edition is pretty bad and getting worse. If

          1. Don Shor

            They stopped charging me recently. You might wish to contact them. I assume subscription will resume when they have the site fully upgraded.

            “Up to 10/01/15 we were taking payments for online subscription through paypal. We have stopped taking paypal payments since we are no longer charging for online subscriptions.
            Our website is under construction, so until then it is free for the public.”

      1. hpierce

        That’ll be interesting… paid for a year subscription in May… much more than $7/month… wonder if I get a refund, a credit, etc., once I’m paying for the 3-day print version PLUS $7/month for on-line access, IF I choose to do so.  Pretty sure I’ll see ‘nada’ in refund or credits.

    1. tj

      You are so right, Sisterhood.  One of my neighbors was crucified – in error, at great length, in a story about his arrest.  Eventually the truth came out, but there was no mention, no apology, for the terrible things the paper had previously written.    Of course, there were already significant clues something was wrong with the Enterprise:  no reporting on the dreadful mice and rat infestation at Cioclat, or its closure due to cockroaches taking over the building.

      1. wdf1

        tj:  Of course, there were already significant clues something was wrong with the Enterprise:  no reporting on the dreadful mice and rat infestation at Cioclat, or its closure due to cockroaches taking over the building.

        This is starting to remind me of a satire of a restaurant review: “The food is terrible and the portions are really small.”

        I could be wrong (I’m sure you’ll point it out if so), but I’m unaware of any other news venue, including the Vanguard, that reported on that.  Does that mean I should abandon the Vanguard as a news source for the same reason?  You did point out as a comment that the Aggie reported on it once.  But the Aggie has suffered a worse fate than the Enterprise, it seems.

        Personally I think I’m well aware of limitations of various news sources, and operate accordingly.  Just as I am aware of limitations of people, including myself, and operate accordingly.

  15. sisterhood

    “..limitations…”

    It is not a “limitation” when a rag like the Emptyprize omits half of the story, when a person is wrongfully accused. It is irresponsible and reprehensible.

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