Detroit newspapers fight to survive

Detroit News offers buyout for employees

DETROIT – Detroit's newspaper landscape is ever-changing, though it's mostly getting smaller.

The Detroit News is looking to cut its staff even further, just as it has in the recent past. It's a vastly different world for local newspapers and New York-based papers looking to act as national newspapers.

Local 4 has learned the Detroit News offered its staff voluntary buyouts as a way to meet 2017 budget targets. It's not likely that the buyouts would happen as soon as next week. Decisions are likely at least a month away.

Not everyone who volunteers for the buyout can expect the paper to accept -- a lot is in flux.

To Wayne State Communications Department Chair Dr. Lee Wilkins, this is a troubling development.

"These are the sorts of moves that precede an organization going out of business or getting absorbed, which I think is more likely to be what is going to happen here," Wilkins said.

The larger question is whether Detroit is about to become a one-newspaper town.

"I think in the near-term, probably not, and by that term, I mean the next six months," Wilkins said. "I think the next two years don't look very good at all."

She said one problem is the business model of giving away content online. There is an assumption that younger readers don't want the physical paper, but Wilkins believes it's not necessarily a good assumption to make.

"There are actually young people who want to hold it in their hands or at least on their tablets," Wilkins said. "There are newspapers, the Washington Post, New York Times, the Wall Street Journal pioneered it, making money with their digital editions."

The News will want to make more money with online advertising, but it's tough to provide better content with a smaller staff.

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