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Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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April 28, 2008

The Presses Stop But the Press Goes On: Capital Times Lives on the Web

The Cap Times was re-born to Madison on Saturday. Ambivalence was felt about the lost authority of print-on-paper news. Generational blues were sung, a flying leap taken. Now a progressive newspaper must make real progress on the Web.

Over drinks the night before meeting, Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger went years past where I planned to time-travel the next day. Talking about the presses they’d just spent tens of millions of pounds buying, he shrugged and said:

“They may be the last presses we ever own.”

Jeff Jarvis, The Last Presses, Buzzmachine, Dec. 5, 2005.

Take a look at this photograph. It shows employees of the Capital Times in Madison, WI, holding one of the last editions of their newspaper, an afternoon daily founded in 1917. These people are losing their jobs, and the newspaper they brought forward six days a week will no longer stretch across the big machines you can see behind them.

The photo isn’t a celebration. The people in the picture, though proud of their work, are not full of that fighting spirit. They are gathered to mark the end of something. Every day they put out a newspaper that won’t be put out that way any more. Behind them are the last presses at the Capital Times.

The presses have stopped but the press goes on. That’s my headline. Here’s the New York Times account and a local report. I wanted to add my own.

There’s no photograph of it, but the Capital Times was re-born on Saturday, which was a day of pain and hope for journalism in Madison. Ambivalence too: about the Web, and the lost authority of print-on-paper. Generational blues were felt. The good part is pretty simple: the Cap Times (“Your Progressive Newspaper”) will go on reporting the news. Journalists like John Nichols will go on editing and writing opinion. But the production logic will shift. The Cap Times is now on online newsroom—a NORG, in fact—with an independent editorial voice, plus two weeklies in tabloid form.

I see a web-to-print play aborning, to me a wise try. Plus they aced the distribution part of the exam: new tabs inserted into the morning daily, the Wisconsin State Journal, which in turn gains circulation from the demise of the afternoon paper, putting the ex-afternoon paper’s weeklies into way way more homes than the fading daily ever reached: 17,000 compared to 104,000 in the new arrangement. For the Cap Times it’s a brand new public to inform. Potential influence has been expanded. The journalism has to change, and no one knows how yet.

This outcome—which includes a flying leap into the digital unknown by a staff not known for its Web savvy—is the result of unique circumstances in Madison. For the people there who care about newspapers, the ground shook on Saturday. Some said goodbye to all that, and left the trade. Others went forward with a new thing. A lot of cynicism remained.

The deal was reported in February: The Cap Times would cease publication as an afternoon daily and change itself into an online journal with two weekly print editions— a news and opinion tabloid on Wednesdays, an arts and entertainment one on Thursdays.

The two papers have separate newsrooms and editorial pages, but they long ago combined other operations, splitting the profits 50-50 even though the Capital Times was smaller, weaker, and not a money maker. The paper sustained a decent-sized news staff: about 60-65 compared to 100 or so at the Wisconsin State Journal. In the end 24 people were cut from that staff. Seventeen of them are in the last presses photo. This is the pain part. The paper ran bios of each. According to the New York Times, about 40 people remain in the newsroom.

“Today marks our last edition as a traditional daily newspaper of the sort Americans knew in the 19th and 20th centuries,” said the editorial on Saturday. “Starting tomorrow, The Capital Times will be a daily newspaper of the sort Americans will know in the 21st century.” Which of course is the hope part.

The founder of the Capital Times, William T. Evjue, split from the Wisconsin State Journal at the height of World War I. Evjue strongly backed Wisconsin’s Robert M. La Follette, and his crusading populism. The State Journal less strongly. (It’s owned by Lee Enterprises, an Iowa-based chain.) The two papers competed as businesses for thirty years but then called a truce and combined in 1948, which was a lot earlier than other deals that created Joint Operating Agreements between rival newspapers, as they are known. The theory is: you preserve two editorial staffs, two voices.

In 1970, on his death, Evjue transferred ownership of the paper to a foundation he had started. His will demanded that profits not invested in the newspaper be distributed to the community as grants. (Assets today are $25 million.) This saved his newspaper from a cookie cutter fate, allowing Evjue’s voice to carry and linger long enough for heirs to bring it across into the next era. Ideologically, the Capital Times cut a distinct—and left-wing or to later generations “progressive”—path. It of course opposed Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, who was from Wisconsin. (See this history and this video from Nichols.)

“Capital Times will carry on the fight in a new form,” vowed editor emeritus Dave Zweifel, the paper’s dominant figure after Evjue’s death. He spoke across 91 years of Wisconsin progressives in commemorating Saturday’s events. Zweifel summoned a different photograph, showing Evjue turning the key on new presses in 1961.

The players may be different in 2008 than they were in 1917. The powerful lobbies of the railroads and banks have been replaced by even more powerful corporate lobbies and their deep-pocketed associations. All too many laws are written for the elites, not for the public. Money controls elections, and politicians, groveling for money themselves, refuse to do anything about it.

In other words, if peace and justice are to be served, there’s a lot of work ahead…

And so after today, we’ll be pushing a different button from the one Mr. Evjue pushed on his new press back in 1961. He didn’t shy then from forging ahead, embracing new technology that would make his paper better and stronger.

The button we push tomorrow will move The Capital Times to the Web seven days a week — as one of our reporters put it, from your mailbox to your inbox — giving us the opportunity to carry Bill Evjue’s message to more people than ever before.

This passage reminds us that newspapers have always been good for propagation, as well as information. The Capital Times is a newspaper trying to pass along its DNA (non-profit, progressive daily) and possibly influence the course of the press after the “jump” into another frame. Will it work? I have no idea. But it makes sense, what they’re doing. (See this account of another publisher’s print-to-web leap.)

I asked my friend and colleague Lew Friedland, who teaches journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and studies social capital, what these events meant for the press in Madison. I also asked him what PressThink readers should know that would not be apparent if you don’t live in Madison. He told me the Cap Times suffered for being the afternoon newspaper, which used to be the more valuable slot.

However, the Capital Times is also a decidedly progressive, left-of-center, newspaper and, although Madison still remains a town that is left-of-center by almost all American standards, it is not as far left as most people outside of Wisconsin believe. It is a city of about 250,000 in a metro-area of 500,000. Much of that surround consists of middle-class, middle of the road suburbs, and while neither paper has succeeded in expanding its circulation to match growth in this area, the Wisconsin State Journal has been aggressively pursing this expanding audience, while the Capital Times has been mostly indifferent, focusing on the city, the progressive community, and younger audiences through its lifestyle tabs.

I have deep respect for the Capital Times, its editors, and staff, but it has operated as an island in many ways, upholding journalistic traditions while much of the community has been changing around it. In fact, it was insulated from having to change by its unique economic arrangement.

It’s also true that the management, Capital Newspapers, strongly favors the morning Wisconsin State Journal. While most observers believe the State Journal is not making money (it’s hard to tell; Lee Newspapers holds its figures close to the vest), the Capital Times loses large amounts of money. In economic terms, the size of the newsroom (before being cut for the changeover) was at least three times the size of most with its circulation. That may be a reasonable decision, if the goal is to put out a strong alternative newspaper. But it was only possible because of the terms of the Evjue agreement. In an open market, the paper would have been killed a long time ago.

Essentially the paper is part way between a commercial and non-profit venture, and was being subsidized by the joint ownership. I don’t think this is a bad thing, and, indeed, may be a model for sustaining professional local journalism in the future. But we need to understand it in this context.

It’s exactly these quirks that made possible a flying leap at the Capital Times that other other newspapers still treat as implausible, even though their present situation is impossible. “This is the kind of bold move the American newspaper industry should have made five years ago,” wrote Jarvis today. Friedland told me there’s a lot of competition online; the Cap Times is getting into the game after others have established themselves in local news for the Web.

Madison is a great town in many ways to try a daily online news experiment. It has one of the highest broadband penetrations in the nation (thanks to the University of Wisconsin and significant financial, government, and high tech industry). But because the Capital Times is fully committing itself to the net somewhat late, it also has major competition. The Isthmus is one of the best alternatively weeklies in the country, independently owned and published, with a strong history of local reporting, and it’s Daily Page is widely read. Dane 101, a collaborative blog, is a younger, hipper alternative to both the Daily Page and the Cap Times, and has carved out a younger audience, mostly around arts and music, but it also covers local issues.

School Information System is a widely read collection of blogs, forums, and documents on the local school system, and while it has its own skew (deregulation, anti-tax, favoring the middle and upper middle classes) it has a wide readership and has had impact on this important local issue. Two daily student newspapers have online editions, and our own Madison Commons pulls together news from many neighborhoods with serious coverage of local public issues in a public journalism vein. This is a pretty crowded ecology into which to launch a daily online news journal. Add to this the fact that the joint web edition of both papers ( has really lagged the overall curve of local online journalism and there is a definite competitive disadvantage.

Still, I think there is room, if the Capital Times can reinvent itself as a breaking online news journal, with many links to existing sources, and, ideally, a strong current of citizen journalism. But that won’t be easy. Bluntly, the paper has had a strong tradition, but has not been an online innovator. It is almost starting from scratch, which could be an advantage, if it can inherit the best of its tradition, but in a very different, much more grassroots driven organizational form. I hope it does, because it is one of the few newsrooms with the reporters and capital to show us what local online journalism might look like. But it has a large challenge ahead.

Friedland’s colleague, Sue Robinson, who has been studying the transition at the Cap Times, names some of those challenges: “The introduction of new technologies to a staff that hitherto has not had much training across media platforms. The welcoming of citizen interaction within the production process. The 24/7 wire-service-like deadline. What it means to maintain objectivity as a journalist who must be heard and seen in their audio recordings or video formats. There is a going to be a significant adjustment period, no doubt, and at the end of it, the CapTimes’ newsroom culture will be altered in a fairly fundamental way.”

Mark Eisen, editor of the Isthmus, wrote a lengthy piece on the passage of the Capital Times: The End of an Era. He admitted that as “a gray-bearded print guy, I’m just as much in the fog as the next uneasy pressie.” But….

The one thing I’ll bet on is that the new weekly Capital Times that debuts April 30 with a free circulation of 80,000-plus will be aimed at the urban advertising market that Isthmus has cultivated for 32 years.

Ditto with 77 Square, the entertainment/culture weekly that the Cap Times staff will produce for free distribution and insertion in the Wisconsin State Journal.

To be sure, Cap Times editors and reporters see themselves as re-imagining founder Bill Evjue’s progressive vision for the Internet age. But, functionally, the new editions are all about the advertising.

Heard of convergence? Here you have an alternative weekly that went daily on the web competing with a daily that gone’s weekly in print. It is by no means certain that the Capital Times can succeed, because it’s not clear which development path is better. For example, if I were those guys, one of the skills I would immediately try to master is aggregating local news better (and faster) than anyone aggregates local news. But the Isthmus is already very good at that, while Dane101 produced a first-rate account of the shift at the Capital Times— better than the paper’s own. (See 101’s excellent round-up of reactions.) The Cap Times editors have a blog up about their re-invention drama, but clearly they are behind at blogging.

My concluding thoughts are these:

  • I know this isn’t how they’re thinking about it in Madison, but from my perspective Saturday marked the debut of a local newsblog and opinion site in Madison with an editorial staff of 40, and a web-to-print engine that is ready to start clicking. Those are basically good facts for the Cap Times. It’s up to the staff to bring journalistic imagination equal to them.
  • “Breaking news, 24/7” is not an idea for how to succeed, but one obvious and necessary element in the solution. (See David Blaska on commodity news.)
  • I think it’s interesting that, up until now, the “progressive” newspaper hasn’t been very progressive on the Web. Why is this? Might it be an advantage, as Friedland suggests? Might it betray a weakness, a legacy cost still to come due?
  • If I were Paul Fanlund, the editor of the Cap Times, I would set a first year goal of developing 400 solid contributors of news, expertise and opinion able to work with my 40 pros at headquarters, and I would calculate that to get the 400 I would need a to register about 4000 participants in various networked journalism projects.

The professionalized press we have today is approximately as old as the Capital Times. Both come out of the progressive era. The mainstream press went one way, a tributary in Madison took its own (some say lazy) path. The headwaters are the same. One newspaper broke away from the other in 1917. Then they got back together in 1948. Now the State Journal carries the Cap Times into Madison homes. That’s not really two newspapers, but one with two branches.

Posted by Jay Rosen at April 28, 2008 1:08 AM   Print


Jay, fascinating story, symbolic in a lot of ways.

While it's just a piece of the bigger picture, I was struck by the mention of sports updates-- this has been a big growth area and huge opportunity for digital print. It has also been echoed to me in conversations with "big media" execs over the past month.

Allowing newspapers to report on sports helps them edge out strategic advantages of TV-- as it did for stock market updates.

My post.

Posted by: Rachel Sterne at April 28, 2008 1:49 PM | Permalink

New FAS-FAX: Steep Decline at 'NYT' While 'WSJ' Gains

Meanwhile, daily circulation at The Wall Street Journal grew a fraction of a percent, up 0.3% to 2,069,463 copies. At USA Today, circulation inched up 0.27%* to 2,284,219. (Correction: the original version of this story said USA Today's daily circulation was up 2.7%.)
I think your previous post should have been titled, "Where's the business plan, news people?"

Posted by: Tim at April 28, 2008 6:29 PM | Permalink

The New York Times article on this event includes the statement that copy editors are “exiting at a higher rate than reporters...”. This is really unfortunate... If the Capital Times takes on the challenge of recruiting, organizing and training the 100's of contributors that they should, then it is quite possible that they will find that they need staff editors much more than staff reporters.

As the organization moves from one which generates content in-house to one that organizes the generation of content by contributors, they will find that the mix of skills they need is drastically different from that found in a normal newspaper. It isn't just the change from paper to web that forces skill set re-balancing -- the change in the organization's relationship to its community will also impact the needed skill set distribution.

bob wyman

Posted by: Bob Wyman at April 28, 2008 9:14 PM | Permalink

The new staff total will be in the 40s. This includes seven new hires in areas like Web producing and arts coverage. Copy editors, by contrast, are “exiting at a higher rate than reporters,” said Paul Fanlund, the editor who arrived from The State Journal in 2006.

New York Times account.

Hi Bob: The suggestion to recruit 400 contributors was purely my own. I don't know that it has any role in their thinking. I read Fanlund's comments as an attempt to suggest there was journalistic rationality to who they were letting go, and who would still be working there. Most likely the new staff size of around 40 was set through negotations and acquired a journalistic logic after the fact.

Doesn't change your point, though.

An Italian blogger translated my phrase, “The presses stop, but the press goes on.” (“Si fermano le rotative, il giornalismo continua”).

Tim: you may be the right about the title of the last post.

I was frustrated by the title of this one: I had a good idea, but couldn't quite get it right. It's not as mellifluous as I wanted, while still conveying what the post is about for scanners and crawlers.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 28, 2008 9:52 PM | Permalink

Thanks for referencing Jason Dean's great account of the shift at Capital Times.

Dane101 has spent three years doing a lot of what Isthmus/Daily Page,, and Cap Times are just starting to catch on to now. We are of the opinion that the Madison market can definitely use more quality online news sources.

The best of luck to them in their new endeavor.

Shane Wealti
Technical Director

Posted by: Shane Wealti at April 28, 2008 10:20 PM | Permalink

Thanks, Shane. You guys are good.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 28, 2008 11:09 PM | Permalink

Just starting to catch on to now?

Posted by: To the Death at April 29, 2008 1:10 PM | Permalink

From what I can tell (not a daily reader) both the Isthmus by becoming The Daily Page and Dane101, by developing as a group blog and online community, are pretty far ahead of the Capital Times online. It's part of what makes the story interesting and I tried to reflect this in my post.

You could look at it this way: Starting Saturday, there's a new entrant in the "online news and commentary about Madison" space. It's this news blog called the Capital Times. Got 40 people producing editorial content for it, an AP franchise, an ad team, and a cost subsidy because it's hooked up with the local daily, which is distributing its web-to-print weeklies. Very wide name recognition in the local market.

The you get to, and and and you don't know what to think. Fuzzy branding.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 29, 2008 2:59 PM | Permalink

Uh, as an example... Look at Dane101: What They Are Saying About: The Future of The Capital Times. High quality aggregation.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 29, 2008 5:49 PM | Permalink


You might be interested in this post which starts to look at the legal side of this discussion.

Posted by: William Ockham [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 29, 2008 6:34 PM | Permalink

Actually, that was by a lawyer who does not know much about newspapers and was merely recycling the logic of others.

Roy Greenslade, the Jeff Jarvis of the UK (ex-newspaper exec turned new media blogger) writes:

An editorial on Saturday marking the change said: "Today marks our last edition as a traditional daily newspaper of the sort Americans knew in the 19th and 20th centuries. Starting tomorrow, The Capital Times will be a daily newspaper of the sort Americans will know in the 21st century."

That's the spirit. That's the future. That's how it is going to be. Not everywhere at once. Not right away in every American city. Not next week in any British city. And, looking at the situation here in Australia, not in the next decade here.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 30, 2008 9:44 AM | Permalink

"intelligently filter the flood of cheap production online, assemble the best parts, package it for sale or distribution in print."

Yes. This is the right model for a new startup, and it's also mostly what I think I want.

However, for the key Newspaper Killer App, I fully agree with Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit): accurate investigative journalism.

The problem seems to be, at least in large part, that when the skills to do a good job go with the passion to do the deep investigation, the reporter can't be objective.

Well, Jay's been saying this for many years now.

For CapTimes, I think they can essentially catch up with Dane101 with a couple of good hires, and then move into the lead on deep journalism with their professional reporters.

Jay, you haven't mentioned pro-am editors much, but I suspect one of the experiments that is likely to be successful is to allow lots of various am editors giving their suggestions, and a few pro-editors choosing among the many ams. The pros get paid a bit (or a lot?), the ams get "fame".

The NewsTrust experiment might be a step towards this, with readers rating stories.

Another experiment I have yet to see is a good dual-biased site -- with fierce anti-Rep facts and analysis facing fierce anti-Dem facts and analysis on the same page. Perhaps you know of some?

Neither TPM nor PajamasMedia nor TownHall yet does it, for me. On the top line quote, my daily reading of Instapundit says he does it for my tastes well.

Could a newspaper have multiple Front Pages, which are set by the reader, but always includes some of the stronger counter-views?

I hope that as Huckabee goes around with his HuckPac to try to energize his evangelical base (to support McCain), he consider trying to support more pro-Christian, pro-patriotism, pro-personal responsibility (less gov't) news content providers.

Just as Catholic Churches get a partial teacher subsidy by devout teachers willing to work for less, news reporters "with a mission" will be working for less to subsidize their own chosen news biases.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at April 30, 2008 11:41 AM | Permalink

"This passage reminds us that newspapers have always been good for propagation, as well as information. The Capital Times is a newspaper trying to pass along its DNA (non-profit, progressive daily) and possibly influence the course of the press after the “jump” into another frame. Will it work? I have no idea. But it makes sense, what they’re doing."

I think the word you were looking for was not "propagation" but "propaganda". One of the effects of the web is that people no langer have to put up with being propagandized n ways they don't like.

"The professionalized press we have today is approximately as old as the Capital Times. Both come out of the progressive era."

If you're going ditch the outmoded technologies and business models, why no go whole hog and ditch the outmoded politics too?

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at May 7, 2008 12:14 AM | Permalink

For another sign of changing times in the newspaper business see the recent news that the Ohio News Organization (OHNO) has been formed to share stories between Ohio newspapers more effectively than was done via the AP. The papers have finally realized that their geographic competition is minimal and thus they can strengthen each other by combining forces to improve all their properties.

The goal of all papers should be to provide solid local coverage within a platform that serves a broad range of communities and interests. They should recognize the value of hyperlocal journalism while leveraging the strength of broad-scope delivery platforms.


bob wyman

Posted by: Bob Wyman at May 12, 2008 9:20 AM | Permalink

From the Intro