Dispatch building

The Columbus Dispatch appears bound and determined to break the daily newspaper reading habit in central Ohio.

First, management keeps jacking up the price of home delivery and single copies of the print product.

Second, the newspaper keeps getting thinner and thinner as less news and information is provided compared to the past.

Third, the deadline for the next day's paper keeps getting earlier and earlier. It was around 9 or 10 o'clock at night for the early edition until the printing plant in Columbus was closed and moved to Indianapolis in January. Then the deadline was moved up to 7 p.m., ostensibly because it takes nearly three hours to truck the papers to Columbus.

I did some checking and found out that 7 p.m. was also the deadline for the Indianapolis Star, a sister newspaper of the Dispatch under the new merged company called Gannett.


Why would the Star be stuck with such an early deadline when there is no 3-hour trucking imperative?

A reasonable deadline for the Star would be 2 a.m. Allowing for trucking time, a reasonable deadline for the Dispatch would be 3 hours earlier, at 11 p.m.

This is crazy. Why would the Gannett chieftains want to punish the readers of the Dispatch and the Star, two of its biggest newspapers, by giving them old news every morning?

The answer, I have concluded, is that Gannett is trying to break the daily newspaper reading habit at its publications because it is planning to cut back 7-day-a-week home delivery to 3 days a week, probably Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. A version of this has happened to nearly all the larger newspapers in Michigan, to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and to many others around the country. My analysis is that these newspapers lost two-thirds of their audience over time that simply went elsewhere, not to the papers' web sites.

Gannett apparently wants to switch its readers to its online services, such as, and keep the print product's advertisers with a 3-day-a-week product that is  mostly ads with feature stories and syndicated materials filling the ever-smaller news hole. No more breaking news, coverage of sporting events, and even timely obituaries. All that along with editorials and columnists and other traditional newspaper content would become available only through online subscriptions.

The owners of the Dispatch and Star plus 200-plus newspapers around the country are betting that print is passé and they can make enough money on online subscriptions and online advertisements to pay the bills.

Gannett has been cutting payrolls, plants and costs since the takeover  by and merger with GateHouse a few months ago. The recession caused by the coronavirus has depressed advertising and led to even more cost cuts and layoffs. Gannett's stock has fallen below $1 a share, as the once proud and profitable firm becomes a "penny stock."

The bad news for Gannett is that only three newspapers in the country have attracted enough paying online subscribers to be profitable: the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. These are unique national newspapers with invaluable content for folks interested in business, finance, politics, government, international events, and culture. The Dispatch hardly falls into that category.

Right now, if you want Columbus area news, you can not only dial up channels 4, 6 and 10 for detailed TV coverage of the community, but also you can the TV stations' free web sites, chocked full of local news, features and sports. 

In contrast, the Dispatch charges for access to its web site. 

Can it attract enough paying customers with its increasingly downsized staff when its TV competitors sites are free?

Probably not. 

In 3-5 years Columbus likely will say good-bye to the Dispatch -- in print and online.

Billionaire Boys Club Needs To Step Up And Save Newspapers

The newspaper industry, aside from the Big Three mentioned above, is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. The country is about to lose a valuable resource that keeps local citizens informed about their communities and their government.

Only if the federal government and/or the super wealthy step in will newspapers be saved.

President Trump can't hide his disdain for news coverage of his foibles, hollering "Fake News" at reporters and news organizations on a regular basis. The federal government he heads is unlikely to help.

The leaves the Billionaire Boys Club -- Bill Gates (Microsoft), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jeff Bezos (Amazon, who owns the Washington Post), Tim Cook (Apple), Mike Bloomberg (Bloomberg Media) and the rulers of Google -- as the last resort to put up the money to rescue the newspaper industry.

Their business have done great harm to the newspaper industry. It would be ironic if they stepped forward and double ironic if they saved the daily print Dispatch.

Political Prisoner Tom Noe Is Free At Last. I Hope It Lasts

You may remember the article ( I wrote in December 2017. 

"Tom Noe: Ohio's Political Prisoner" told how the onetime Toledo coin dealer and Republican political activist was being held behind bars for a decade for white collar crime at the behest of leaders of both political parties and the publisher of the Toledo Blade.

I called on then Gov. John Kasich to pardon Noe. I joined many others in writing letters to the governor and the Ohio Parole Board. I visited with Noe in both the Nelsonville and Marion prisons.

Kasich was lobbied by big donors and powerful Republicans to free Noe, but would not budge, punting the issue to his successor, Mike DeWine.

DeWine could have pardoned Noe his first day in office, but did not. He was contacted by the same donors and influentials, but to no avail until the coronavirus devastated the Marion prison.

The governor then sent the matter back to the parole board that unanimously said "no."

Because DeWine is a big-hearted decent human being who tacitly agreed that Noe had done enough time for white collar crime, he granted Noe a conditional pardon and released him April 21. Noe was a model prisoner and posed no physical threat to society.

As one of many who went out on a limb on his behalf, I hope Tom Noe, now 65, will devote the rest of his life to charity and good works.

(Please send your comments and suggestions for future columns to John K. Hartman,

(ColumbusMediaInsider, copyright, 2020, John K. Hartman, All Rights Reserved)