Friday, May 25, 2012

Enquirer has lost 17% of daily readers since first of the year

It is easy and customary for every alt newspaper and every blogger to take swipes at the major daily newspaper in their town, more out of jealousy than legitimate editorial criticism.  And, indeed, one would have to admit that even today the Cincinnati Enquirer is the "newspaper of record" for everything Cincinnati, metro news, sports and leisure.

Still, COAST earnestly believes that the precipitous slide in readership and "opinion leadership" in our community at the Enquirer could be slowed or even reversed if only they would make an earnest attempt at reporting the news instead of spinning their viewpoint of what's transpiring in the City.  And on their editorial page, actually challenging our leaders instead of taking the role of reliable pom-pom team for the powers that be.

Thus, it was without surprise that we noted the March Audit report of the Audit Bureau of Circulators shows that Enquirer readership has slid to 134,700 daily.  That's down from their 2011 numbers of 161,858 according to numbers compiled by the same organization. 

The best example COAST can provide was its post-election critique of the coverage of the Schmidt/Wenstrup race.  Basically, other than a few pithy "man bites dog" stories, the Enquirer ignored the race entirely.  They failed to run even their standard pre-election synopsis of the race.  Nothing, of course, except this pathetic, inexplicably bad puff piece on Jean Schmidt.  It's so embarrassing, they have never even posted the story on line.

However, more than simply bad reportage, what this story shows is the Enquirer's persistent failure to bring readers cutting-edge news, things they actually want to devour when the "paper" comes in the morning.  This failure is not a result of lack of resources.  After all, they had the reporter time and newsprint space to run this gosh-awful 2-page profile piece that informed the readership of nothing at all.  Rather, it was Carolyn Washburn's (Editor) and Margaret Buchanan's (Publisher) attempt to shore up a sinking ship of a Congressman.  (It did not work.)

But more telling was that during the precise time readership was sinking 17%, and while Tea Parties, COAST, the pro-life community, and others were getting excited enough about Brad Wenstrup to make him (to date) the only non-incumbent in the nation to unseat a sitting House member, the Enquirer found nothing at all newsworthy in the race.

The Enquirer missed story after story after story in this race that has helped define the 2012 primary season nationwide.  This race has now been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street, Journal, the Washington Post, USA Today, National Journal, National Review, and on and on and on.

Still today, the Enquirer is missing story after story that would help them to sell newspapers, if only they understood their readership and cared:
  • They have neglected to tell their readership that Mayor Mallory basically does not have the money to finish the first phase of Streetcar construction, yet the project is underway.  There is a $50 million gap between their own projected costs, and identified funding sources.
  • On the streetcar front, the Cincinnati Business Courier has regularly scooped them on issues relating to the Duke Energy fight, the MSD fight, the diversion of monies slated for road improvements into the streetcar pot and the attempted mis-use of Blue Ash Airport monies.
  • The City has failed to run any projections for revenue or expenses for their $4.4 million venture into the "wedding hall" business (the Atrium project), assuring it will be a failure.
  • They know the "back story" on the Music Hall renovation fiasco, yet refuse to tell their readership.
  • They have failed to explore the  power struggle for control of Queen City Metro, and the City's cash grab of transportation  dollars.
The editorial page is even more pathetic.  What used to serve as the last check and balance, the conscience of the community, now rarely runs any meaningful commentary on community events.  When it does, it is either in the role of cheerleader of the established organs of power, or mouthpiece for Roxanne Qualls at City Hall.  Thus:
  • It has never editorialized about the Jean Schmidt ethics problems at all, except a brief mention when endorsing her.
  • It has never supported or opposed the streetcar.
  • It has never mentioned the wasteful $4.4 million City Hall atrium project.
So, the Enquirer can continue to to its job, and we will do ours.  But we can't help but mention that their seemingly intentional drive towards irrelevance is sad to us.  What used to be a grand paper covering important events responsibly in Cincinnati is now a shadow of its former self.  And its readers have taken note.

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