Newspapers downsizing/eliminating editorial pages.

Over the last few years I’ve noticed newspapers eliminating or greatly reducing their editorial and opinion pages. For example, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel used to have a readers letter page every day, and one double in size on Sundays. They have since eliminated the daily page and the Sunday page is but a third of what it once was.

I’ve noticed this trend in other papers as well. I’ve also noticed that newspapers are lighter on editorial content, not being as opinionated as they once were. I don’t necessarily miss that, but I do notice the shift in content.

About a quarter of readers letters tended to be in response to editorial positions and I wonder if that had anything to do with the downsizing of readers letters.

Or is it just another symptom of a dying medium?

Readers have the option of online comments sections. In newspapers with restrictive online access, people can still get topical discussion, albeit generally of a lower quality, via social media feeds. A typical Facebook user may not even have the urge to pick up a paper to read letters from the public because commentary finds its way to him or her based on pages followed or pages friends follow, or is easier to search for.

For the most part, the idea of writing a letter to a paper in response to a published letter another member of the public wrote seems antiquated now.

A portion of the editorial content/op-ed material has been relocated to the main “news” pages, sometimes labeled as “analysis”, so the apparent dearth of editorial section material isn’t as profound as it may seem.

But then they could be nixing everything and just doing it all online. Why would the opinion section of the paper be the only part to get cut?

And what is the deal with less editorials by the papers staff itself? Some aren’t even endorsing candidates during elections any more. Something other than the web must be driving this trend.

Do you ever see ads on the editorial pages? They’re non-paying space. Of course, newspapers find them an easy place to cut.

But not really, though. In the past two or three years less than half of the articles I’ve read by various papers have comment sections anymore. They’ve been declining steadily for some time.