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Rooting for The Buffalo News On D-Day


Today is D-Day at The Buffalo News.

By that, I mean it is planned to be Digital Day, when one needs to subscribe to the newspaper in order to read more than 10 stories a month online.

It could be delayed because of Hurricane Sandy since many newspapers are dropping their pay window during the potentially devastating storm.

Today also is expected to be the first day that the new news editor, Mike Connelly, arrives at One News Plaza. But that’s a story for another day.

The Buffalo News

The Buffalo News (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The current November edition of Buffalo Spree includes my interview with Buffalo News president Warren Colville in which he explains in great detail why The News had to begin charging for its online content. I suggest you pick up a copy ASAP.

As a college teacher, I’ve learned first-hand over the last seven years about how difficult it is to get young readers to buy and read the printed newspaper.

Every semester, I take an informal poll of how many students buy the local newspaper. If more than 10 percent raise their hands, I consider it a triumph. And I teach journalism and communications students, who you would expect would be more interested in reading the paper than most people their age.

It is very discouraging, especially since I love the newspaper. The students also don’t read The News online all that much. That’s partly because some of them come from outside of Western New York and partly because they get their news online from other sources.

The News remains profitable partly because WNY has a large audience of older readers who still like to have a newspaper in their hands. I find the current advertising campaign of The News amusing for several reasons. As I’ve noted before, its slogan asking where else but The Buffalo News can you find things involving real estate, sports and entertainment is laughable to my students who find all of that just about everywhere else online but The News.

Additionally, it is amusing that so many of the ads feature pictures of the younger female readers who are the toughest for the paper to reach. When I was at The News, an edict went out to put a photograph of a woman on the top of Page 1 every day on the theory that it would attract female viewers.

The point is as The News loses its print subscribers, it needs to find new ways to enhance revenue and that’s where charging for online content comes in. I’m not sure the strategy will work but I sure hope it does because The News still does some high quality, in-depth work that — unlike some real estate, sports and entertainment coverage — really isn’t done anywhere else despite staff reductions.

Sunday’s paper had two cases in point – an excellent Jay Tokasz story on the complicated life of the late Rev. Joseph F. Moreno Jr. and a Mary Pasciak story about the battle between Buffalo Teachers Federation president Phillip Rumore and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Those stories alone were worthy of the $1.99 The News is charging new subscribers for the Sunday paper, which allows them to get online content for free.

It is a bargain even if you don’t put into the equation all the money-saving coupons available in the Sunday News. The News needs enough subscribers to sign up for the printed newspaper or the online product to continue having a large enough staff to allow reporters to do such strong work.

This isn’t to say Sunday’s paper was perfect. Early deadlines undoubtedly had much to do with some coverage decisions in the sports department that were as head scratching as some of the late-game pass plays called by Bills Coach Chan Gailey.

Not counting the University at Buffalo’s latest loss, the biggest college football game for WNYers most likely was Notre Dame’s 30-13 thrashing of Oklahoma. ABC’s Brent Musburger announced afterward that “Notre Dame is relevant again.” The story about the Irish win was buried with a one column head that read “Irish still perfect” while wins by Kansas State and Georgia got huge headlines across the top of separate sports pages. If you can find a Kansas State or Georgia fan in WNY, email me.

The Irish fared better than Syracuse, another college team with local interest. SU’s exciting 37-36 comeback victory over South Florida with three seconds left was its biggest comeback win in 70 years. It was carried on Time Warner Cable. It got one line in small print.

The Notre Dame and Syracuse decisions illustrate how tough early deadlines can be for a newspaper. The paper can be much more current and thorough with its online content. 

Sports coverage drives newspaper sales. That’s one reason why the News now has at least four people covering the Buffalo Bills. The NHL lockout is damaging a lot of local businesses and that includes The News because the Sabres aren’t playing games that readers want to read about.

They include many readers who have moved out of town and have enjoyed reading The News online for free to follow the local sports teams and what is going on in a WNY community they still love.

I know because I have adult children who live outside of WNY and read The News online. They won’t be shutout since they can still read 10 stories a month for free. However, that is less than a week’s worth of Bills stories so they may have to pony up some digital dough.

But maybe not. Here’s a secret I accidentally discovered when calling The News about my digital subscription. I was told by a News telephone representative a few weeks ago that up to five people can use my password to read The News online and that it is perfectly legal to share with out-of-town relatives.

CORRECTION: My Spree article mentioned News layoffs have reduced the staff size. My bad. I should have used the word buyouts instead of layoffs. The News never has had layoffs. It’s an important distinction. Unfortunately, my later use of buyouts was edited out. The error is being corrected online.



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8 responses to "Rooting for The Buffalo News On D-Day"

  1. Mark Scott says:

    A couple of things, Alan.

    First of all, the Buffalo News is not ready to implement this new policy. Despite having an account for a few years now that allowed me to log in and manage my subscription, I have been unable to successfully log in to read articles. The News has been testing the new procedure for the past couple of weeks. I keep getting a message that my email or password is incorrect. I pay the full freight for seven days a week. I have heard from many others who are having similar log in problems. So, until they get this working right, the News should hold off on the pay wall. I don’t mind paying for my newspaper. But I shouldn’t be denied access to the website because the technology is not working.

    Secondly, I was troubled by Jay Tokacz’s article about Fr. Joe Moreno. Without any evidence AT ALL, Tokacz asked the question of whether Fr. Joe’s suicide could possibly be linked to the church’s sex abuse scandal. What horrible journalism! How did this get past the editor? No doubt, Fr. Joe had his faults. But this was not one of them. There was not one piece of evidence presented. Indeed, priests who abuse and those higher-ups who covered up such abuse should be held accountable and punished. But journalists need to be careful of painting all priests into this corner. Again, there was no evidence. Tokasz should not have brought it up, even if some people “wondered” about it. And the diocese should not have been forced to respond. It’s on the same level of when did you stop beating your wife.

    • GMan says:

      Ditto on the login problems. As for Rev Moreno, I have to admit that that was the first thing that crossed my mind when I first learned of his death(by suicide), than about his earlier transfer. That’s usually the reason a priest is asked to leave a parish. You can’t say either if that was one of his faults.

  2. Ed Kotowski says:

    Hi Alan.The pastor of the Chapel at Crosspoint,Jerry Gillis,is a Georgia grad,and huge Bulldogs fan,so he probably enjoyed the atricle in the News.

  3. Tim says:

    I totally disagree with Mark on the Fr. Moreno thing. Like GMan, it was the first thing that I was wondering. If nothing else was ever written, I would have thought that was a very likely thing that happened.

    The article addressed that question that I bet most of us had – and got it dismissed. By talking about all the other issued Father Moreno had, I no longer think that sex abuse was the reason for his transfer.

    But, it was all that fleshing out of details that made me think that. Not showing up for mass, no administrative skills, and on and on.

    The one thing I did wish it went into a little more depth was Why the heck did he start that fire?

  4. Ian says:

    One of my best friends is an UGA fan. He has transplanted family down there, including one who is a professor there. He went to a game down there when he was younger and got hooked.

  5. Dave Morgan says:

    Glenn Gronkowski attends Kansas St. I’m sure they have a solid WNY fan base.

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