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Two Views About Why Papers Are in a Slump

January 19, 1992

Surprise, surprise. America's newspapers are experiencing their "fourth holiday slump" and the start of their fourth decade of declining readership ("Bad News for Newspapers," Dec. 15).

How could this be? Well, for starters, watch how long it takes for one reader's input to get into print, when everything else is automated with high-speed telecommunications and electronic transfers. This letter was written Dec. 16.

Next, ask the average consumer how he or she feels about paying more for the monthly subscription, as long as the newsprint taxes have been increased anyway, for a daily publication that is 85% ads. Even newspaper classified ads offer more marketing for their firms than they provide real employment opportunities for the subscriber.

Or you might want to ask environmentally aware citizens what they think about the quantity of newspaper filler dedicated to dubious sales. What goes through their minds as they stack piles of papers for the recycling truck every week?

Perhaps your readers actually waded through all that trash to find real text. Only to discover that the article was merely another car commercial embedded in the View Section disguised as a "product review" or a not-so-objective technology writer's recommendation that they gotta get this new computer thing.

Oh, but read in Column One about the great and wonderful future that we can expect when the newspaper industry introduces its own fantastic new technology or its wondrous cost-cutting ideas.

Or, trust me on this, the newspaper publishers association is really looking out for our freedom of information interests when they beg Congress to pass protectionist legislation so they can compete against the telecommunications providers in the information services game.

Hey, editors of America, give us the news , some great writers and some great writing. You know what I mean, the stuff on which your profession was built. Get back to the basics of the business of news if you want your readers to get back to you.


Santa Monica

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