P.D. East & The Petal Paper

The demise of print media has been a given for years, their death throes fodder for late-night comedians. Magazine and newspaper circulation has declined drastically over the past decade, as have advertising revenues. Craig’s List has eviscerated the want ads and shrinking readership has made print unattractive to advertisers.

Rather than get news from a paper thrown onto a wet lawn, people are getting information from the Internet, where much content is free and they can control what their eyes and ears take in. No need to subject oneself to news one doesn’t like.

In the U.S., newsroom employment is half of what it was ten years ago. The list of deceased newspapers is long and the number of cities with more than one paper can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand.

A hedge fund, whose assets include the National Enquirer, has purchased the venerable but bankrupt McClatchy Co. and its roster of estimable newspapers. The new owners are expected to follow private-equity strategy by selling assets such as real estate and inflicting further layoffs.

Investment guru and Berkshire Hathaway C.E.O. Warren Buffett got his start delivering newspapers. His company had been acquiring newspapers for years. Buffett, famous for keeping investments for the long term, recently sold off Berkshire subsidiary BH Media Group. BH owned seventy newspapers. Vice-chairman Charlie Munger said, “Technological change is destroying the daily newspapers in America. The revenue goes away and the expenses remain and they’re all dying.”

With the incessant torrent from the Internet and twenty-four-hour-cable-news what are we missing? Small-town, local news and public-service announcements—what we who think we’re so sophisticated used to find amusing—go unreported as the means for disseminating local goings-on are disappearing.

But let’s take the Wayback Machine to Mississippi in the 1950s.

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