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Monday, February 23, 2009

Weekend Blood Letting in Area Newspapers, Journal Could be Next

The parent company of the Trentonian filed for bankruptcy over the weekend, as well as the Philadelphia Inquirer, the third oldest daily paper in the country. Both papers serve south Jersey. Jersey City's Jersey Journal warned earlier this month that the paper would also be facing closure as early as April.

The Journal has been struggling in recent years. In 2005, in an effort to attract more readers, the paper went from a standard broadsheet format to a tabloid size. At the time, the move was seen as risky but necessary.

Print news has been hit from all angles in recent years. Classified ads, the one time bread and butter of the newspaper industry has largely been replaced by internet sites like Craigslist. Subscriber bases have declined too as readers began consuming news online free of charge. Meanwhile, the internet has also increased competition allowing citizen journalists access to the same readers as professional news organizations.

One such project is the Jersey City Independent, an online only news site focusing on Jersey City. The Independent provides the online news coverage the Journal should have been providing all along.

The Journal does not have its own website, instead publishing off of its parent company's brand One of the problems with is that news articles on the site disappear from the internet after just two weeks, depriving the site of archival ad revenue. On the other hand, online publications remain available since their inception. has experimented with more modern formats, such as the blogs Hudson County Now and Hoboken Now. Largely though these efforts in the online realm have been, in internet parlance, a fail. For instance, Hoboken Now competes directly with independent news site Hoboken411. Hoboken411 produces vast quantities of content and maintains a loyal reader base on a minimal budget; blogs on the other hand consist of multiple staff members and are not robust enough to conform to standards of internet publications. Standard internet practice includes linking to multiple sources, providing readers a richer experience; instead, most often links to, limiting the usefulness of the site.

Meanwhile, the Hudson County weekly paper, The Hudson Reporter has reinvigorated its web presence with a site redesign. The free paper best known for collecting unread on city stoops has refreshed its web portal to provide timely news and regular updates as well as accept reader content.

The Jersey Journal may not exist come April, but the Jersey City residents will not be wanting for news. The very reasons the Journal faces an uphill battle-- competition from the internet-- has made for better information available to readers. If the Journal cannot survive, its only because someone built a better mousetrap.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Jersey Journal has obvious limitations, but it's also a lively, quirky, ancient little paper, and it has had the backing of the Newhouses -- the people who helped the New Orleans Times-Picayune get New Orleans through the devastation of Katrina.

The Jersey Reporter is great. So are the local news Web sites. But, really, at this point, they mostly feed off of the carcass of the Jersey Journal. The vast majority of the newsworthy threads on JC List and Wired JC start with a Jersey Journal story. Even when regular folks break the news about a crime or fire on the Web, I never get anything like the who what where when and why until the Jersey Journal runs a followup story.

Maybe the Jersey Reporter or a Web site eventually will grow up to fill in the gap left by the death of the Jersey Journal, but I think it will take awhile.


1:04 PM  
Anonymous Jon Whiten said...

Thanks for the shout-out in this post, Ian. We're doing what we can over at the Independent, and as a new organization are only going to grow, but to piggyback off of alb's point, we think the city would be worse off with no Journal in town.

While we often have beefs with the way the Journal covers things -- or what it chooses to cover -- we think that losing it would only be a loss for the city, at least in the short term.

Perhaps the Reporter or even us at the Independent could grow into a more fully-functioning "daily" online source, but for now we're both pretty much weeklies, filling in the gaps with some blogging. For either of us to really step into the Journal's shoes if it were to go away would be a difficult task (financially speaking) at a difficult time. I have no doubt that we could get there eventually, but, as alb points out, it would take some time.

But we'll see how this all shakes out. At the very least, it will be interesting.

-Jon Whiten
Managing Editor
The Jersey City Independent

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are right of course that the Jersey Journal isn't much of a newspaper. But like the other commentators point out, it's a source of reliable information that won't be replaced soon.

Even with its shrunken, tiny newstaff, it has more fulltime paid reporters than the alternative news sources will have in the foreseeable future.

Also most bloggers and online news sites funded by organizations have a definite perspective. They may be more interesting but their reporting alone just isn't as trustworthy. It's much easier to believe "some guy on the internet" when his facts are backed up by what was in the paper.

We will miss the Jersey Journal greatly if it goes.

I'm glad to know about the Independent, though, so thanks for the tip.

11:10 PM  

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