The Disquieting Decline of the Star Ledger

Despite its success, the Ledger has been losing as much as $30 to $40 million a year due to the same pressures that all newspapers face: declining ad sales and subscription revenues. Associate Professor of Journalism at Rutgers-Newark, Rob Snyder, and I discuss how long the Ledger has left.

robsnyderThe Star Ledger, established in 1832, is the 15th largest paper in the country by circulation, delivering a half-a-million papers on any given Sunday.  The paper received a Pulitzer in 2005 for its coverage of Governor McGreevy’s resignation.
Despite its success, the Ledger has been losing as much as $30 to $40 million a year due to the same pressures that all newspapers face: declining ad sales and subscription revenues — much of which has been blamed on the emergence of the news sources on the web, delivered both by large media companies (such as CNN) and smaller niche blogs.

In its efforts to transition to the web, the Ledger has launched new initiatives in recent months such as a daily video podcast, a Twitter news stream, and training reporters on the use of video.  While the Ledger Live has been a really enjoyable podcast (this one had a particularly brilliant insight from one guest video blogger), it’s been difficult to tell whether these efforts will have a measurable boost to the Ledger’s bottom line.

In response to the paper’s troubles, Debbie Galant, blogger at BaristaNet (shown gazing over her glasses below), sniffs, “Good luck, Star Ledger. I really do hope that you stay around because I like linking to your stories.”

Today, the paper faces an October 8 deadline to renegotiate with its unions and lower costs or face a potential closure or buyout come January.  To discuss the implications of a closure of Newark’s only paper, I chatted with Rob Snyder, who is an Associate Professor of Journalism and American Studies at Rutgers Newark and Editor of the Newark Metro.

The interview is about 26 minutes. Press the play button below to listen.


On the podcast, we discussed:

  • What’s the national context for the Ledger’s potential closure? Is it common for local papers to close?
  • What pressures are there on the newspapers now to bring about this potential sale or closure?
  • What role have newspapers like the Ledger played in American society? Do we know what the implications might be of losing the paper?
  • It seems that the business models for papers and the web are very similar — both delivering content supported by advertisers. Why can’t many of these papers flip to an online model?
  • What models of delivering news do you see gaining traction in the next 3 years?
  • Bonus! Given your experience in the city and teaching at Rutgers, where do you see the city in 5 years?

More commentary and coverage:

Newark opens line for citizen complaints

Newark opens line for citizen complaints
The city of Newark steps into the 20th century by implementing CRM (that’s citizen relationship management) software and a streamlined, centralized call center. The new call center will field questions from residents for everything from garbage collection to pothole repair — questions that often fall to the city’s overburdened 911 service.

The city of Newark unveiled a new phone hotline yesterday that is supposed to serve as a catch-all for complaints about graffiti, potholes, traffic signal problems and other city services.

The phone number — (973) 733-4311 — is modeled after similar non-emergency call lines that have been wildly popular in New York City and Baltimore. Newark officials hope this phone number and tracking system will give department directors a clear snapshot of strengths and weaknesses in city services.

“Today marks the day where we finally tell Newark citizens we care about what you say,” said James Bennett, the call center manager. “When you call, we will listen.”

More exciting, though, was this information I received from the company whose system the city implemented, QScend Technologies:

“Further, municipalities can offer a full-blown knowledge base and citizen self-help center through their websites, allowing citizens to access key information 24/7, not just when the call center is open,” said LeBeau. “If they don’t find the answer to their question using the knowledge base, they can then submit a form regarding their service request and that request is routed right to the responsible department.”

This would certainly be taking the program to the 21st century. Imagine submitting a complaint online about a pothole on McCarter Highway and not just getting that issue resolved, but getting an email or text message (or twitter?) to close the loop when the pothole is fixed!

Now THAT would be taking the concept to the next level, and sources say that web-based issue tracking is not only technically possible, but part of the next phase of this rollout.

Putting Newark ahead of the curve on services for residents — that’s the kind of thing that will continue to fuel investment in Newark.

Coming Tomorrow: 4311 Call Center for Newark Non-Emergencies

Coming Tomorrow: 4311 Call Center for Newark Non-Emergencies
Similar to New York City’s 311 service, Newark will be unveiling a one-stop-shopping call center for non-emergencies in the city.

Full press alert after the jump.

Newark 4311, the Non-Emergency Call Center, is designed to provide the citizens of Newark with an efficient and effective resolution of non-emergency concerns within the community. The call center’s hours of operation will be Monday to Friday, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. The number to call is (973) 733-4311.

Continue reading “Coming Tomorrow: 4311 Call Center for Newark Non-Emergencies”

Cory Booker Has a Blog

Cory Booker Has a Blog
Peek into the thoughts (and datebook) of Mayor Cory Booker at his new blog. There have yet to be any cat photos, and it’s unclear whether the Mayor will be Twittering his every move (“OMG! Star Trek TNG Marathon this weekend for realz!!1!!one!”).

But this will doubtless be a welcome resource for Newarkers and another reason why the transparency argument just doesn’t hold water. (Hat tip: Ironman).

Hi, I’m Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ. I’ve started this blog as an opportunity not only to record the inner workings of my office and my own mind, but also to hear from both those who support me and those who may not. So please, make this page a conversation. Together we can move Newark forward.

Newark and the Future of Crime Fighting

Newark and the Future of Crime Fighting
Slashdot, a popular technology blog, picks up the “future of crime fighting” meme kicked off by TechCrunch’s interview with Mayor Booker. The discussion is, unsurprisingly, negative against the cameras due to potential civil-rights violations with regard to privacy.

Booker is quick to point out that the city worked with the ACLU to define a framework around how police can use the cameras (i.e. the NPD can only observe streets, not inside of buildings), in which all have found satisfactory.

“Newark Mayor Cory Booker is betting that cutting-edge technology will reduce crime and spark an economic renaissance. From a newly opened Surveillance Operations Center, cops armed with joystick controllers monitor live video feeds from more than 100 donated cameras scattered across the crime-ridden city. The moves are drawing kudos from businesses like Amazon subsidiary, which has moved its HQ to downtown Newark, where space is 50% cheaper than in Manhattan. But are citizens giving up too much privacy?”

Newark and the Future of Crime Fighting

Newark and the Future of Crime Fighting
BusinessWeek picks up on the tech enforcement meme kicked off by TechCrunch editor Mike Arrington. This upbeat piece connects the dots between crime prevention and economic development. (Hat tip to Bill Chappel for the link)

Already though, the business community is beginning to throw its weight behind Booker’s plan. In August, Newark scored a big win when London-based Standard Chartered Bank (STAN.L) opened a new office downtown that will hold more than 500 employees. Inspired by the mayor’s vision, financial executives, such as New York hedge fund operator William Ackman, have financed some of the new technologies that the city can’t afford because of its $180 million budget deficit. And the Newark offices of big companies such as Verizon Communications (VZ), AT&T (T), Cablevision Systems (CVC), Public Service Enterprise Group (PEG), and Continental Airlines (CAL) are beginning to hire more residents from the city., a subsidiary of (AMZN), is one of the companies that has jumped on the Mayor’s bandwagon. Last March the company moved its headquarters and 165 employees out of Wayne, N.J., and into a 50,000-square-foot office in downtown Newark. Don Katz,’s founder and CEO, says the space is 50% cheaper than Manhattan real estate. And even though Katz expected Newark’s reputation to scare away some employees, not one worker has left since the move. “For a long time, I thought it would be great if we could serve our shareholders and be part of an urban renaissance,” says Katz. “All in all, it’s been a complete win.”

For more on the success of the police camera system in Newark, check out the TechCrunch interview with Mayor Booker.

Preventing Crime With Tech: The Newark Experiment

TechCrunch editor, and personal hero, Mike Arrington interviews Mayor Cory Booker regarding the impact of the $3.1 million Community Eye project, which is a blanket of wireless, high-resolution cameras. Preventing Crime With Tech: The Newark Experiment
Booker counts the the cameras as one of the key components of the city’s 40% drop in the murder rate in 2008. The audio gunshot-detection technology, which will help cameras hone in on the source of a gunshot, will also come online later this summer.

Newark has raised $2 million of the required funds and are looking to private philanthropists to fill the gap. If you’re interested in donating to the Community Eye project, click this link: Donate Now to Community Eye in Newark.

The podcast is linked below, and well worth the full 20 minutes of your time.


People told me when I first came into office, that if I saw a 10% reduction in murders, that’s dramatic. And not just in 1 year, but as mayor for 4 years to accomplish that. This year alone we’re having 40%, not to mention what we accomplished last year. Overall, everywhere we’re seeing a reduction in crime. In some areas we’re seeing it completely stop.