Two of Philadelphia’s proudest traditions may be nearing the end of their tenures. The Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia Inquirer may no longer exist or may exist in dramatically altered versions.
The two papers’ parent company, Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This does not mean the company is actually closing down, just that it is finding it can no longer make payments on its more than $300 million of debt and is trying to find a way to restructure itself so it can still be viable.
Just how it does that is up to a bankruptcy judge, who will hear the case at two hearings in March.
This is not the only case of newspapers in trouble that is the closest to us. As Philadelphians and as members of a print medium, the development concerns and worries us.
As news consumers, even if one or both newspapers are forced to shut down, we know this will not be the end of journalism or of news in Philadelphia or anywhere else. There is simply far too much demand for information.
This potential vacuum has a silver lining, one that students from Temple and every other university can benefit from.
If there is little to no supply of quality journalism in Philadelphia, new business models will spring up to fill that void. And those models may come from today’s students. The newspaper men and women haven’t been able to find a model that works, so maybe what is needed are fresh minds to approach the problem.
The solution may not come from a student with a journalism background. It could come from a business or marketing student. But that may be just what our craft needs now: more outside influence.
The media moguls of 100 years ago had no strong tradition to build their empires from. They made them up because there was a need for the way they produced the news, and money could be made from it.
In that way, the media moguls of the next 10 or 20 years will not be able to draw from any coherent business tradition to create their empires.
We believe that students are up to the challenge. If there is a viable business method for print media, it will be found by our generation.