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Letter from the Editor

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The San Jose Mercury News will lay off as many as 101 employees to cut costs and make up for declining advertising revenue -- including 41 newsroom positions, it was announced Friday.

The same day, owners of The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News told employees that those papers are experiencing one of the worst declines in ad revenue in history.

"Simply put, this dramatic revenue decline will prevent us from meeting our bank obligations if we don't take absolutely critical actions on the cost side," an owner said.

I'm just guessing, but I suspect "critical actions on the cost side" will entail more reporters and editors losing their jobs.

The story is the same for daily newspapers all over the country. You'll read spin about how newspapers have "more readers than ever" because of their Web sites. But those readers don't come close to paying for the huge costs of producing, printing, and delivering a dead-tree product to your home every day.

Classified ads have almost disappeared from newspapers in many markets, thanks to the success of such free Internet sites as CraigsList.com, Backpage.com (with which our FlyerMarket.com is affiliated), and eBay. And large advertisers are increasingly turning to magazines, TV, and the Internet.

I'm on my computer most of the day, and when news happens anywhere in the world, I get a headline and a link to the story delivered to my desktop. After work, I watch CNN for further news of the day.

Consequently, when I open my Commercial Appeal, the only "news" I haven't already read is local. I read those stories and the sports, check out the columnists, and do the chess puzzle. Then, I open my laptop to check the "real" national and world news -- what's happened since the paper went to press the night before. This, in a nutshell, is the problem facing daily newspapers -- and career journalists.

The Flyer is a different animal. Our circulation department is eight guys with pickup trucks; we don't come to your house -- you find us. We have comparatively few reporters, but they're focused like a laser on Memphis news, politics, and entertainment. We're lean and healthy -- so far.

That said, I sincerely hope we're not seeing the end of the daily newspaper. It's an essential part of our democracy. A strong free press helps keep our leaders honest. Plus, I'd hate to have to start taking my laptop into the john.

Bruce VanWyngarden, Editor

brucev@MemphisFlyer.com

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