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Suburban newspaper chain looking to shrink

Dan Kennedy reports GateHouse Media, which owns most of the suburban papers in eastern Massachusetts, is offering buyouts to workers.

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Shocking to see how thin some of these Gate House papers and even both Boston papers have become. How long can they last? A friend who once delivered four truckloads of papers a day to stores and newstands says now he can put all of the papers on the front seat of a compact car. Funny that most of them are still giving the content away. The Herald website is free, the Globe has boston.com and Gate House has a bizarre whitening of the screen, although simply scrolling allows readers to defeat the block. Add in the politically one-sided views that repel many readers and the end seems near for print. Sad.

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I appreciate that their on-line presence under the "Wicked Local" branding has to employ media advertising to help make ends meet but of late it is becoming a deal breaker for me.

Frequently the sheer volume of mufti-media crammed onto a page is causing browser crashes, and that is on a state-of-the-art (sic) Windows 10 system.

Now they have a forced-to-view pop-up advert that you cannot opt out of. Recently they added a count-down timer to tell you how long the torture will last, usually about 15-20 seconds. It's interesting how these forced multi-media adverts get around pop-up blockers as well. I may try setting up a browser just for this with all images and media shut off like the old Lynx text-only browsers to see how it goes. If so it will be a great victory.

I read the memo posted at Dan's blog. Essentially if you are a seasoned journalist and getting a higher rate you are desirable to move on. This allows them to hire junior journalists just starting out at a lower pay scale. Of course, this also means that you are hiring staff that has fewer or nonexistent contacts for quotes and inside stories. They will also be pressed to produce the meat and potatoes in a short turn-around time. You wind up reading a re-hashed press release from the news source which will be biased in their favor. So much for objective journalism or investigative journalism.

Minor rant follows...

I am reminded of some of the new "kids" writing about the MBTA plans for these new-fangled diesel multi-units (DMU) trains that are like subway cars but run on a diesel motor. They presented the story as if it was Einstein's equation and the best thing since the folded paper napkin. Of course anyone with enough grey hair will know the rail diesel car (RDC) which is what a DMU used to be called, was the work-horse of the Boston and Maine RR from the 1940s well into the 1970s. It's not a new invention. Their grandparents and great-grand parents rode them all the time.

(FWIW, forget DMUs for now. There is no one in the USA making them, and any company off-shore would need to build an assembly plant on US soil to start up building them.)

Same is true of their portrayal of "high-speed" rail at 100 mph, when in fact trains can reach that speed easily now. We just let the rails and associated infrastructure deteriorate to the point where that speed is not safely supported. Indeed, steam trains in quite a few parts of the country were capable and did in fact run at 100 mph and over in their day. That can easily be referenced but none of the young reporters do that kind of research anymore. It's better stated as "high(er) speed than what we have been used to." Elsewhere on this rock near the sun, high speed rail starts at 200 mph and goes upward from there. So they misunderstand and misuse the terms as well. Politicians make the same mistake, by the way, when it comes to this topic. The rail bed between Rt 128 station and the rail trench in JP is actually rated at 100 mph and Amtrak can and will reach that speed often. MBTA trains don't because their stations are closer together and they often have to switch tracks which also requires them to slow down. MBTA max is 59 mph to 79 mph on a good day.

The whole point being is that Gatehouse is just looking at their risk of financial losses. I can't blame them for that but in the end we will be losing out as the reading public.

Frankly speaking, I now find myself looking at UHUB to find out what is going on, from the high-profile material to the quirky.

And as far as that great experiment called "The Patch," ... well I won't go there.

The Bulletin newspaper which are free in print was changing $12/yr for the on-line version. That lasted a few years then they gave it up and now you can once again download a PDF of the current week's edition. Of course that link is buried and hard to find but it is there. Gatehouse won't take that as an indicator by the way.

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