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Once considered the dominant paper of Oakland County in sales, circulation and news coverage, The Oakland Press has witnessed a steady decline, with daily circulation plummeting to slightly more than 23,000, according to the most recent figures from The Alliance for Audited Media.
As print circulation continues to plummet, so goes its associated revenue from the sale of papers and advertising. Faced with declining profits, the paper has been forced to slash employees, leaving its sports and news departments with a skeleton crew of editorial staff.
A review of one week's worth of editions of the Oakland Press reveals that advertising by local retailers is weak at best and some weekdays, nonexistent. The Sunday edition is still beefy, in large part thanks to advertising from auto dealers and preprints or advertising inserts, a huge profit item for most newspapers, numbering from 12-15. The classified want ad section, which in its heyday ran 40 pages or considerably more, is now down to just several pages.
"That is just sad. That is just very sad," Jack Lessenberry, head of journalism faculty at Wayne State University and senior news analyst for Michigan Public Radio, said about the paper's circulation number. "They have had a lot of good people and reporters that are now scattered around."
While Lessenberry credited many of the paper's staff for its quality of work, including current local news editor Julie Jacobson-Hines, he said The Oakland Press has become a "sort of wretched" paper that employs "huge headlines and no content, with some reporters working out of their homes rather than coming into the newsroom.
"They clearly don't have money to add staff," he said.
Requests for comment from the current executive editor and the publisher of The Oakland Press weren't returned. However, interviews by Downtown newsmagazine with several previous editors, publishers and Detroit-area newspaper veterans since the paper was sold from ownership of the Fitzgerald family in 1969 tell a story of a once strong paper in a state of decline.
"This was a very good paper, and the staff was moving into the southern part of the county. Then disaster happened," Lessenberry said. "All newspapers have been in trouble, and a lot of their problems might have happened anyway, but it was exacerbated by corporate greed and people that didn't have an interest in journalism."
Once employing more than 100 people in its newsroom, today The Oakland Press has less than 20 editors, reporters and multimedia journalists listed on its editorial staff. Those that remain must find ways to do more, while new hires must focus on ways to increase digital content, which includes finding and promoting news that will bring traffic to its website and mobile platforms....continued on page 3