The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review will become digital-only.
For almost 200 years, residents of Pittsburgh could choose between at least two daily newspapers. The two-paper town is a claim to fame fewer than a dozen U.S. cities can make. With the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s announcement that it will cease printing on Nov. 30, that number continues to dwindle.
The Pittsburgh edition of the Tribune-Review will continue as a free, digital-only publication. Parent company Trib Total Media will shunt staff and resources to editions outside of Pittsburgh where local readership is strong. In an announcement to staff on Wednesday, President and CEO Jennifer Bertetto said that the company’s commitment to covering news in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County will change only in format, not substance.
That’s not how it works out, said John Carroll, a professor of mass communication at Boston University and creator of a blog called “It’s Good To Live in a Two-Daily Town.”
“People are thinking, ‘It’ll be the same content, it’ll just be on a different platform.’ You can not support a news-gathering operation at the same level with digital-only revenues,” because they can’t support the same level of staffing.
Since July 2015, more than half of Trib Total Media’s 1,100 employees have resigned, accepted buyouts, or been laid off. While the company looks to strengthen its regional coverage, the reconfiguration of the Pittsburgh edition underscores the stressors on the newspaper industry: declining subscriber base, limited advertising revenue, and the challenge of getting people to pay for digital content.
“There are just really limited ways for the situation to resolve itself, and I think that’s what’s keeping newspaper executives up at night,” said Carroll. “The struggle is partly for how to structure the news organization, but the bigger struggle is how to convince the public that what [newspapers] have is distinctive enough and worthwhile enough and valuable enough to pay money for.”
Carroll says having two competing papers makes for better, more enterprising coverage. Without it, readers “won’t know what they don’t know.”
In Pennsylvania, both York and Wilkes Barre still have two daily newspapers.