State of American Newspapers

July 15, 1983

Report Outline
Surviving Tough Times
Strategies for Stability
Challenge of New Media
Special Focus

Surviving Tough Times

Optimism in Face of Gloomy Predictions

The Newspaper business has, for the past few years, weathered gloomy warnings from without and within about its impending death. The failures of several important metropolitan daily newspapers seemed to lend credence to the doom-sayers. Thus, the optimism that prevails among newspaper people may come as a surprise to many readers, even if it is apparently supported by statistics. Daily newspaper circulation was the highest ever last year, despite the collapse of 10 dailies and the absorption by merger of 11 others. Sunday circulation continued its steady climb. Weekly newspapers, despite a slight decline from record-high levels of the previous year, remained strong. And even industry people were surprised at the rapid acceptance of the colorful national daily USA Today, published by the Gannett Corp.

Moreover, the nascent economic recovery enabled many newspaper publishers to bring glowing first-quarter reports with them to newspaper conventions, such as the one held by the American Newspaper Publishers Association (ANPA) in New York April 25–27. The atmosphere of that meeting was considerably different from the one held two years earlier in Chicago, when broadcasting and cable television magnate Ted Turner predicted that newspapers were becoming “technologically obsolete” and would disappear within 10 years.

The events of the next year seemed to bear out Turner's forecast. For several papers, victims of the recession, changing demographics, high labor and production costs, and intensified competition, the words “Final Edition” meant not the last edition of the day, but the last edition ever. The Washington Star folded in July 1981, leaving the nation's capital temporarily with only one general-circulation daily, The Washington Post. There were more casualties in 1982. The Philadelphia Bulletin, Cleveland Press, and Buffalo Courier-Express all suspended publication; newspapers in Minneapolis, Portland, Ore., Des Moines, Oakland, Tampa and Duluth merged with other newspapers (in most cases already owned by the same company) in their cities. The New York Daily News, still the nation's largest general-interest daily despite serious circulation declines, was put on the selling block by the Tribune Co. (publishers of the Chicago Tribune) with the threat that it would be closed if not sold.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Sep. 18, 2020  The News Media
Aug. 24, 2018  Conspiracy Theories
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May 03, 2013  Media Bias
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Nov. 2010  Press Freedom
Oct. 08, 2010  Journalism Standards in the Internet Age
Feb. 05, 2010  Press Freedom
Mar. 27, 2009  Future of Journalism Updated
Jun. 09, 2006  Blog Explosion Updated
Jan. 20, 2006  Future of Newspapers
Apr. 08, 2005  Free-Press Disputes
Oct. 15, 2004  Media Bias
Oct. 10, 2003  Media Ownership Updated
Dec. 25, 1998  Journalism Under Fire
Jun. 05, 1998  Student Journalism
Sep. 20, 1996  Civic Journalism
Sep. 23, 1994  Courts and the Media
Aug. 24, 1990  Hard Times at the Nation's Newspapers
Jan. 19, 1990  Finding Truth in the Age of ‘Infotainment’
Aug. 18, 1989  Libel Law: Finding the Right Balance
Jun. 06, 1986  Magazine Trends
Oct. 12, 1984  News Media and Presidential Campaigns
Jul. 15, 1983  State of American Newspapers
Oct. 23, 1981  High Cost of Libel
Dec. 23, 1977  Media Reforms
Mar. 11, 1977  News Media Ownership
Jun. 21, 1974  Access to the Media
Dec. 20, 1972  Newsmen's Rights
Aug. 16, 1972  Blacks in the News Media
Dec. 15, 1971  Magazine Industry Shake-Out
Jul. 18, 1969  Competing Media
Sep. 02, 1964  Politicians and the Press
Dec. 04, 1963  Libel Suits and Press Freedom
Jan. 09, 1963  Newspaper Mergers
Dec. 20, 1961  Reading Boom: Books and Magazines
Dec. 02, 1959  Privileged Communications
Apr. 25, 1956  Newsprint Deficit
May 06, 1953  Government and the Press
Sep. 21, 1948  Press and State
Sep. 05, 1947  Newsprint Supply
Mar. 26, 1947  Facsimile Newspapers
Dec. 10, 1945  World Press Freedom
May 01, 1940  New Experiments in Newspaper-Making
Nov. 04, 1933  Press Freedom Under the Recovery Program
Print Media
Radio and Television