'Sun' closing could indicate more cutbacks

The New York Sun's folding could foretell less drastic cutbacks across various forms of media during this period of economic instability

Although some might consider the September 30 closure of The New York Sun only the failing of one start-up print publication, the title's folding could foretell less drastic cutbacks across various forms of media during this period of economic instability.

While the repercussions might not be as dire at other print and online publications, many media outlets are finding other ways to cut costs, says Choire Sicha, Radar editor-at-large and former Gawker managing editor.

“We're heading for five quarters of recession, so the Sun closes down, and the Los Angeles Times lays off 50 to 75 people, and Nick Denton lays off almost one-fifth of his workforce at Gawker Media. This is a very bad time, and you wonder what's next,” he says. “I thought it was a miracle that [the Sun] had a newspaper at all for that long. It was like pulling a rabbit out of a hat everyday.”

Former Sun editor Seth Lipsky told readers on September 4 that although his publication was “one of the few newspapers in America to see substantial increases in print advertising revenues” for the past three years, its management had to find additional financial backers to turn a profit. The Sun's September advertising revenues were up 60% over the previous year, Lipsky told staffers at the newspaper's close.

After it did not find sufficient additional funding, Lipsky, in comments from his final meeting with editorial staffers that were published in the Sun, said that the recent economic turmoil did not help the cause of the newspaper, which was first published on April 16, 2002.

“But among other problems that we faced was the fact that this month, not to mention this week, has been one of the worst in a century in which to be trying to raise capital, and in the end, we were out not only of money, but of time,” Lipsky told staffers on September 29, adding that the newspaper would shut down “in an orderly way,” paying its staffers through November and extending health coverage through the end of the year.

Even a publication like The New York Times, which is in a better financial position, has cut its services to the reader as well, notes Donna Cornachio, adjunct professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University and a journalism professor at SUNY-Purchase.

The New York Times, which isn't in danger of folding anytime soon... has absorbed the Metro section into the A section, and they're saying right now that they are not doing any layoffs and not shrinking any coverage, but I can't help but think that that might happen in the not-so-distant future,” she says. “The Times has put a tremendous amount of resources into NYTimes.com just for that reason, because they know a lot of [younger] people aren't reading the paper.”

The economic conditions, cited by Lipsky as hastening the Sun's downfall, are likely to continue through the holiday shopping season, resulting in less advertisements from the retail sector, Cornachio adds.

And while the Sun was widely regarded as a conservative alternative to many New York media outlets, the economy is likely much more responsible for its financial ills than its status as a conservative paper in a largely left-leaning city, she says.

“My sense is that [the Sun folding] was probably just a matter of the bottom line and advertising pages, particularly with what's going on now in the financial industry. They're talking about retail season being really slow – people aren't shopping and retailers aren't putting ads in papers,” Cornachio says. “I think that it's a really scary time... there's a trickle-down effect.”

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