At several highway entrance ramps in Scottsdale, Arizona, where I just spent five days visiting my mother, an enterprising social commentator posted signs reading, "Welcome to Scottsdale: Please disregard the First Amendment." Yet theArizona Republic
, the Phoenix area's principal daily newspaper, is getting plenty of opportunities to exercise this inalienable right. The broadsheet was considerably thicker than typical editions of theDenver Post
or theRocky Mountain News
on most days I was there -- an indication of strong ad revenue. Moreover, copies landed on a higher percentage of driveways in my mom's neighborhood than in any section of this fair city that I've seen of late.
Is that because the Republic is an outstanding newspaper? Based on my sampling, the answer to that question is "no;" it struck me as solid but unexceptional, and lacked any major enterprise pieces that seemed particularly impressive. So why is it bucking industry trends epitomized by "Newspapers Report Steep Decline in Net Income," an article in the April 3 Rocky? My guess is Phoenix's demographics. My mother is 67, which puts her in the middle of the age range on her block -- and like others of her vintage, she grew up reading newspapers, and sees no reason to stop.
The Republic clearly benefits from this tradition, which serves to guard against at least some financial hits. Still, the habits of people like my mother can't be considered a long-term solution for the woes of dailies unless medical science can somehow find a cure for mortality in the Valley of the Sun. Imagine future highway signs that read, "Welcome to Scottsdale: Please disregard death." -- Michael Roberts
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