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Newspapers Grow Leaner, Less Nourishing

We've told you that American newspapers are in dire straits. More and more readers are canceling their subscriptions as they realize they're getting most of their news, entertainment, and sports information from broadcast stations and their computers and personal handheld devices. As a result, even old, reliable advertisers like department stores are buying fewer or smaller newspaper ads. Fewer readers and less revenue have created a financial free-fall that newspapers are scrambling to address.

In just the past few weeks:

* The Washington Post Company, which publishes the newspaper that has been a virtual profit machine, reported its first operating loss in 37 years. Part of the hemorrhage went to buyout payments to more than 200 Post staff members. That meant 200 fewer salaries the paper has to support.

* The editor of the Chicago Tribune quit rather than comply with the publisher's order to cut 14 percent of the paper's news employees and shrink the space devoted to news, also by 14 percent.

* Six in ten U.S. newspapers reported that they have reduced the number of journalists in their employ in the past three years. Nearly two-thirds have cut back on foreign news coverage because it's so costly. Both newspapers and magazines, once fat with ads and meaty in content, are looking thinner by the week.

Many editors insist that their trimmer, graphically bolder papers are easier to read and more appealing as younger reporters replace the old guard. New Web-savvy staffers are spreading the newspaper's brand by writing blogs and appearing as TV commentators.

That's little comfort for reporters who are losing jobs, editors who must close bureaus, or longtime readers who are saddened by the spectacle of what one media critic called the incredible shrinking newspaper.