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Fewer daily papers print an edition 7 days a week

UPDATED: Fri., Aug. 7, 2020

Veteran pressman Ken Coburn loads new aluminum printing plates onto the rollers of the massive Goss printing press to print the daily paper while DeAnne Oak, right, waits for more plates to arrive Monday, June 22, 2020, at The Spokesman-Review Production Facility in Spokane. The long-serving Goss Metro press was retired on June 28, 2020.  (JESSE TINSLEY/The Spokesman-Review)
Veteran pressman Ken Coburn loads new aluminum printing plates onto the rollers of the massive Goss printing press to print the daily paper while DeAnne Oak, right, waits for more plates to arrive Monday, June 22, 2020, at The Spokesman-Review Production Facility in Spokane. The long-serving Goss Metro press was retired on June 28, 2020. (JESSE TINSLEY/The Spokesman-Review)

Just as The Spokesman-Review suspended the printing of its Saturday edition in late April, many papers have cut one or more days of printed editions as they try to survive in difficult economic times.

McClatchy Newspapers across the country, including the Tacoma, Olympia, Bellingham and Tri-Cities papers in Washington, have also eliminated their Saturday paper. The Vancouver Columbian dropped its Monday paper early this year.

Among Washington’s major daily papers, only the Seattle Times and Everett Herald publish a print edition seven days a week.

Last month, Wyoming became the first state to have no daily papers producing a printed product seven days a week.

“I expect to see more of it,” said Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst who writes on publishing trends for the Poynter Institute. The nearby Tampa Bay Times prints a paper only on Sunday and Wednesday, and the Arkansas Democrat in Little Rock only prints on Sunday and provides long-term subscribers with a free iPad so they can read the daily e-edition.

Like The Spokesman-Review, many produce an electronic version of the nonprinted edition for that day in a format that has a similar look on a computer screen.

“A component of (the change) is to have people who are print readers familiar with an electronic edition” and show them it can be a good substitute, Edmonds said.

But the main reason is to cut costs on printing and distributing and spend it on “keeping the news efforts whole,” he said.

When The Spokesman-Review announced it was dropping the print edition of its Saturday paper, publisher Stacey Cowles said it allowed the paper to avoid reducing staff hours at a time of heightened demand for local stories, photos and graphics those people produce.

Doug Hindman, who teaches courses in News and Society along with Communications Technologies at Washington State University’s Murrow College of Communication, called the dropping of a day of printed papers “a small evolution” as local newspapers find ways to adjust and keep people employed.

“I’d rather see printing one less day than them firing reporters,” Hindman said.

In some cases, the reduction of days a printed version of a local newspaper is produced is a cost-cutting decision made by corporate ownership thousands of miles away. But tying it strictly to ownership is an oversimplification, Joshua Benton wrote in a look at the trend for Nieman Journalism Labs, an organization that helps newspapers look for ways to adapt.

It can be one of the more “journalist friendly ways to cut costs at a newspaper when revenue demands it,” he wrote last month.

Readers who miss the experience of holding their daily paper on the day or days it isn’t delivered to their doorstep might wonder if the trend will ever reverse.

“I would imagine it’s rare to turn the tide,” Hindman said.

Editor’s note: An early version of this story incorrectly identified the newspaper in Tampa Bay.

Jim Camden can be reached at 509-879-7461 or at jimc@spokesman.com

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