I was reading Saturday’s Park Record Editorial that details the Coronavirus’ impact on Park City’s newspaper. Advertising revenue has dwindled, two reporters have been furloughed, and employees have taken a 20% pay cut. They are asking for donations to help make it through. It’s tough times for the newspaper.
I feel bad for the people working there. Getting furloughed or taking a pay cut isn’t easy. However, for the company as a whole, the newspaper business has been a terrible business for over a decade.
Given the Park Record’s editorial, and the recent pandemic, it’s made me think about where I get the majority of my local news. Those sources are undoubtedly the Salt Lake Tribune for Utah-based information and KPCW for local information.
The sltrib.com coverage of the coronavirus’s impact on Utah is up to date, chock-full of information, and wide-spread. In other times, their coverage of the legislature and Utah-wide stories is exemplary. They act as a public watchdog.
KPCW covers issues in many different ways. Their website is up to date with local information. As important, the Local News Hour with Leslie Thatcher has interviews with local leaders that are extremely informative. The level of depth found there is compelling.
I compare that to what I get with the Park Record, and it just isn’t quite the same. The Park Record feels structured for a different, slower time. While articles can appear throughout the week, they are based on a Wednesday and Saturday schedule. By the time I see the article in the Park Record, I usually conclude that I have already read or heard that elsewhere. There isn’t enough information, in a timely fashion, to compel me to HAVE to read the Park Record. It’s usually worth a skim — at least for me.
However, please don’t mistake this for an indictment of our local paper. The Park Record is important for the community. They sponsor the Spelling Bee. They cover local sports as well as anyone in Park City. They have good writers. I like the addition of Alexander Cramer covering the Basin. Bubba Brown has done a good job taking over for Nan Chalat Noaker as Editor.
It just feels like they need to evolve. This became clear to me when thinking about why I enjoy KPCW.
Some may think of KPCW as a radio station, but IT’S NOT. It’s something entirely different. They’ve found a way to take their on-air stories and provide them in a written fashion as well. Whether you want to listen to Rick Brough or read the story Rick Brough created, you can. Do you want to listen to the Local News Hour at 8 AM each morning but can’t? It’s posted online within hours. Do you want to know what happened at last night’s City or County Council meeting but can’t attend? There will be an interview the next morning with important facts.
KPCW is not a radio station. It’s a news service.
If the Park Record wants to compete it needs to be faster, or more in-depth, or more interesting, or more engaging, or more something. For instance, if we put timeliness aside and just go with the sheer volume of stories, they are behind KPCW. During the past week (Mar 21-28), here are the number of stories I counted by each journalist at the publications (in no particular order and forgive me if I spell a name wrong):
David Boyle: 18
Emily Means: 13
Carolyn Murray: 7
Leslie Thatcher: 3-4 interviews per day
Rick Brough: 9
Renai Bodley Miller: 12
Alexander Cramer: 13
James Hoyt: 1
Bubba Brown: 2
Jay Hamburger: 10
Ryan Kostecka: 6
Scott Iwaski: 9
Of course, the number of stories published doesn’t necessarily equate to quality. However, KPCW’s quality doesn’t seem to be suffering. These numbers could be off by a few stories, but they generally confirm what I have often thought. KPCW seems to produce more content. It’s also often more timely.
So, how could the Park Record change? If there was a sure-fire answer to that question, newspapers wouldn’t be dying across the country. Yet, I think our small, tight-knit community does offer opportunities. There’s a place for an online community in lieu of Next Door or Facebook that is more useful and privacy-focused. The Park Record could be the home page for our community. They could be the place where people come to talk, listen, and learn. It could be the place where each of us starts our mornings.
It could be more audio and video-based while retaining the written-side. It could use those new mediums to highlight the artists, film-makers, and other people that make our community great. They could dig deeper into interviews with local politicians. They could be more investigative.
The Park Record has the chance to make our community more interesting and engaging by bringing us together and making it easier to hear, read, watch, and talk about what’s happening. Create must-see content. Don’t be a paper. Be a community.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m under no illusion that this would be easy. It may require a different skill set than currently is demonstrated at the Park Record; however, they have it in them. They can transform. They have in the past.
If you need any further proof about the state of the newspaper in Park City, look no further than the Salt Lake Tribune. Their Utah Jazz sportswriter, who doesn’t have much to do, has written the most detailed, interesting, and stats-filled newspaper story about Summit County and the Coronavirus to-date. Yes, an out of work sportswriter from Salt Lake has written the best article on Park City and the Coronavirus. It shouldn’t be that way. Go read Andy Larsen’s story now at the tribune, if you haven’t. Brilliant.
Yes, I do realize that the Park Rag is just a blog. And what do I know about running a “real” paper? That’s true. I don’t have answers; I really only know what would make it more compelling for me as a consumer. For that matter, The Park Record may be happy being who it is. Or maybe they don’t have the money to invest in being different. There are always constraints. It just seems it could be so much more.
The Park Record has been around for 140 years and needs some help. So, if you like what they are doing, click here to donate to them via their web page. They can use every penny.
That said, if they want to go on, I believe they need to change. There will always be economic downturns and advertising dollars will decrease. Yet, if the Park Record can reinvent itself with a slightly different approach, it will have a better chance to increase subscriptions, broaden subscription revenue, and enhance advertising dollars.
The one truth is that the traditional newspaper business ain’t what she used to be. It’s no different for our local paper.