What Happens When A City Loses Its Newspaper?

On Nov. 2, Oakland will join the ranks of Denver, Tucson, Cincinnati and Seattle as a large metropolitan city that has lost at least one daily newspaper. According to the official blog of the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation, the Oakland Tribune will be “rebranded” as the East Bay Tribune. The rebranding process also includes folding in The Fremont Argus, the Alameda Times-Star, the Hayward Daily Review and the West County Times. All papers are owned by the Bay Area News Group.

When a city loses its newspaper, sometimes it’s incorporated into a larger media group, as is the case with the Oakland Tribune. Other times, a newspaper can go on to exist solely as an online entity. Such is the case with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which ended publication in March of 2009. The Rocky Mountain News, one of Denver’s daily newspapers, has kept their news website online strictly as a memorial for the print edition.

But the death of a paper also means the loss of jobs, and that’s not a void which a blog can necessarily fill. Newspapers give a community more than just the top story on page one. High school sports, op-ed pieces, insider perspectives on local government, and political endorsements in municipal races are just a few of the topics that local newspapers cover.

The biggest issue at hand is what will happen to the communities which those papers served. In larger cities with other daily newspapers, chances are that the other newspapers will pick up the slack. Hyperlocal websites can also fill the gaps and bring news about and to under-served communities. Good reporting doesn’t necessarily need a newspaper to be brought to the world — blogs and social networks can also be used to tell a story and engage an audience.

In the case of the Oakland Tribune and the other local papers which will be folded into this new conglomerate East Bay Tribune paper, time will tell as to whether or not the whole will be the greater of the sum of its parts.