Is It Still a Choir If Only Two Voices Are Heard
This becomes a more interesting question, when you apply it to the consolidation of our former widespread and contentious national newspapers. From the single owner-editor-typesetter-printer man with a press and a point-of-view to the big-city behemoths, our news sources were fountains of political controversy, obituaries and missing-cat announcements, as rich a treat as the local ice cream.
Following that thread from a hundred years ago to now.
We’re witnessing the rise of the lucrative monopoly newspaper. In 1920, 42.6% of U.S. cities had two or more newspapers competing with each other. By 2000, only 1.4% did, mostly because afternoon newspapers had disappeared. The increasing competition from early news on television, the shift away from a manufacturing work schedule of 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the flight of readers from the central city into the suburbs had made delivery of an afternoon paper less profitable.
The rise of the monopoly newspaper coincided with another development: the growth of the newspaper chain. Large companies and Wall Street investors saw profits in local newspapers, profits that would grow through the efficiencies of chain management. At the same time, the federal government’s imposition of inheritance taxes had prompted some families that owned local papers to sell in order to avoid having their heirs pay substantial inheritance taxes. In 1920, 92% of newspapers were independent. Eighty years later, 23.4% were.