Are Print Papers Killing Themselves With Cuts?

On the heels of the news that the Los Angeles Times is cutting another 75 jobs in the editorial department comes an interesting theory from Ken Doctor about the future of newspapers. On his Content Bridges blog, Doctor — who served in various vice president capacities at Knight Ridder Digital until 2005 — argues that print newspapers are being too aggressive in cutting costs, essentially undercutting the very reason people might continue to subscribe.

Trusted bylines have disappeared overnight. Readers notice, and talk to their friends, and they’re saying: it’s not the newspaper it used to be. When the subscription notices come, they’re a little less likely to be acted upon.

This is, of course, a fine line.

The “trusted names” are frequently the writers and reporters drawing the largest salaries. Economically, is it better to cut a 20-year veteran with name recognition or two (presumably hungry) 25-year olds? Doctor would seem to argue the latter.

The answer comes down to why people read and, more importantly, will continue to read the print paper. Increasingly, the same news is available everywhere. (How many stories are there on Google News about the same topic?) If one accepts this theory, it stands to reason that newspapers should retain the bigger names in hopes that readers will seek out their columns. After all, what’s a lazy Sunday in bed without Maureen Dowd in The New York Times? Let the kids own the blogosphere; that’s what we’re good at anyway.