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oCapital Newspapers, Inc. announced today that its Capital Times, Madison's afternoon and very progressive newspaper will cease its daily publication on April 26th.  Like so many other metro afternoon papers, it could no longer publish as circulation declined steadily to the current 17,000.  I'm personally pretty sad about this, but I've had time to get used to the news.  Unlike even most of the Cap Times staff, I was part of a meeting last December to make communication plans for the announcement to staff, advertisers and readers that daily publication was coming to an end.  It was a hard secret to keep among my progressive friends.  I made sure to give my Cap Times carrier a really nice holiday tip because I knew well before he did that he'd be out of work.

This is not all bad news.  The paper intends to live on as a twice-weekly supplement to the larger Wisconsin State Journal, Madison's much larger morning paper.  Wednesday's tab-sized supplement will be chock full of the op-ed content that has made the Cap Times beloved by a lot of people and loathed by just as many.  Thursday's supplement will provide coverage of arts and entertainment, replacing the Rythms section that the Cap Times produced for both Madison papers for many years.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing is that the Cap Times intends on remaining a vital and timely news source by stepping up its digital edition in a huge way.  (Thus the headline pun.  Clever, huh?)  

At least that's the plan.

"Moving our resources to the web is the wave of the future," [editor Dave] Zweifel added. "Thousands of readers are already using and, frankly, we're often blown away by the volume of responses we get to columns and stories at a time when we're devoting limited resources to the site. Putting the full force our newsroom on the site will extend the reach and relevance of The Capital Times for years and years to come."

It didn't take long for the paper's online message board to begin reflecting the reaction of both readers and detractors.  (link; scroll down a ways.)  Indeed, those who viewed the venerable daily as the "Crapital Times" are dancing on its grave.  Even though it's not going away completely, that's the way many are taking the news.

As both a newspaper fan and a media strategist, I have to wonder how successful the Wednesday supplement will be.  Generally, there's not a whole lot of duplication between the two Madison papers' readership.  To be sure, there are those like me who subscribe to both.  But a great many readers of the State Journal (or State Urinal for non-fans) may well be unhappy that some of their subscription money is now going to fund the writings of people like John Nichols and Doug Moe.  Tough shit, I say.  The Cap Times is a lone voice of progressive thought among old media.  One of the things that impressed me about Madison when I moved here was that it was a rare two-newspaper town where although the two papers were jointly operated, they were totally at odds editorially.

So, as the newspaper industry continues to lose readership as its audience base grows older and dies off, we mourn the passing of another fine newspaper.  Sure, it will be around in a different form, and I am happy about that.  The viability of a metro paper focusing on daily... hourly... digital editions is exciting.  And it should be a glimpse of the future.  I hope it makes it, and not just for selfish reasons.  I also want to see it succeed because of the important progressive voice it provides.

cross-posted on Kerfuffle

Originally posted to Kerfuffle on Thu Feb 07, 2008 at 12:21 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'll miss you, Cap Times! (9+ / 0-)

    dissent not only welcome... but encouraged

    by newfie53523 on Thu Feb 07, 2008 at 12:21:40 PM PST

  •  Perhaps (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Now the Press Connection can get back off the ground.

    Seriously, will the Cap Times retain its reporters and have them contribute to the on-line edition?

    This aggression will not stand, man.

    by kaleidescope on Thu Feb 07, 2008 at 12:24:28 PM PST

    •  some, not all (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Treg, bleeding heart

      They had a staff meeting this morning to announce this internally.  
      Then they went to put the paper to bed.  Then they had another meeting where early retirement/buyout stuff was discussed.

      As I understand it from my meeting with their editorial management, they will try first to shrink staff by retirements and exit packages of a voluntary nature.  But if that doesn't do it all, then they likely will eliminate some jobs.

      dissent not only welcome... but encouraged

      by newfie53523 on Thu Feb 07, 2008 at 12:29:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  sad to see it go (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    newfie53523, bleeding heart

    Nothing riles up the right like a good Nichols column.

  •  Oh no, is Murdoch taking it over?! (0+ / 0-)

    Wednesday's tab-sized supplement will be chick full of the op-ed content that has made the Cap Times beloved...

  •  Former Madisonian hates to see it go (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bleeding heart

    Whenever I want to catch up on Madison happenings, I usually would try to visit the Cap Times page (moments after skimming through the Isthmus site).

    I used to work in circulation for the Wisconsin State Journal/Cap Times.  

    Well, perhaps this will gives those Wisconsin pulp forests a rest.

  •  Alum the WSJ (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Love, bleeding heart

    still running SPORTS on the front page?

    I mean, I love Bucky and Favre, but when they started running sports above the fold on the cover--and then Radical Rye was torn down--and then Koval lost the bid for the Chief of Police--I moved.  

    "Capital consists of living labor serving dead labor for the maintenance and expansion of the latter." --Karl Marx

    by Kab ibn al Ashraf on Thu Feb 07, 2008 at 12:40:26 PM PST

  •  Another ex-pat Cheesehead... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bleeding heart

    ...mourns the loss of the Cap Times.

    I had to subscribe to The Nation to get my John Nichols  fix. (OK, I would have subscribed anyway)

    Such a shame - MadCity has such a wonderful progressive legacy - slowly being eroded.

  •  Sorry to See It Go...but it's no Press-Connection (0+ / 0-)

    The glory days were long gone but still old Bob LaFollette is rolling over in his grave.  It's too bad because the State-Journal is just awful.  It's been 20 years since I lived in Mad-Town, good for the Cap Times for hanging on this long.

    Ain't no time to hate.

    by howardpark on Thu Feb 07, 2008 at 12:51:36 PM PST

  •  An important Cap Times connection (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Treg, newfie53523

    For those of you outside Wisconsin, you should know about the Cap Times sponsorship and key role in helping to grow Fighting Bob Fest.  It's become one of the largest gatherings of progressives (of many stripes) in the country, and by far the largest regular gathering of politically involved folks in Wisconsin.  I've been attending since the first one in 2002 (kicked off by the late great Senator Paul Simon).  It started off with maybe eight of nine hundred attending.  I think it broke through eight thousand last year.  It's really been an oasis of positive energy through the Dark Ages of Bush the Lesser.  I especially like it because it gets the progressive folks from around the state together, and NOT in Madison....  I hope their support for FBF can continue.

  •  I always wished that the Cap Times (0+ / 0-)

    came out on the weekends.  Since moving up to the Madison area in '94, we've subscribed for weekend service of the Wisconsin State Journal even though it was to the right of me politically.  Never subscribed for M-F service for either paper simply because I couldn't get in the mindset for an afternoon paper (The Cap Times), and I didn't have time to read the morning paper (the State Journal).  But come the weekend, my wife and I love looking over the morning paper over a pot of tea.  I just wished it could have been the Cap Times instead of the State Journal.

  •  Freudian slip (0+ / 0-)

    Wednesday's tab-sized supplement will be chick full of the op-ed content

    I believe you meant "chuck full" or perhaps this is Wisconsin phrase?

    Sorry for the demise but I believe this is the course most newspapers will be taking as people get their "news" from the internet more now. It'll replace the TV and Cable news too eventually since people are able to participate in the process as were do here at dKos. Both papers and TV don't allow for this interaction. I think that's why the Repugs were able to spin so much including the Iraq occupation. It'll be more difficult in the future, I believe.

    "What a peaceful world it would be if Barbara had aborted!"

    by DevonTexas on Thu Feb 07, 2008 at 01:02:43 PM PST

  •  Musta been winter '95/'96 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I run into City Editor Ron McCray at the Avenue Bar early on a Friday afternoon, he asks what I think of the online edition. I confess I wasn't reading it much as they only presented the top 3 stories. He asks where I went for local news when out of town, had to tell him the Milwaukee Journal for State level, Badger Herald (slightly rightof center college paper) for local.

    Took about 3 weeks until the Cap Times started putting all their local news online.

    (Ron knew me as an early on the nets from when he was Press Secrfetary for Gov. Tony Earl in 1985,as we occupied the Capitol for 2 weeks ikn protest of state investments in apsartheid S. Africa. I was junping onliine to communicate with sit-ins at colleges around the country.)

    Democrat for US Senate, Wisconsin 2012.

    by ben masel on Thu Feb 07, 2008 at 09:53:01 PM PST

  •  Are on-line newpapers viable economically? (0+ / 0-)

    By which I mean, does anyone know if on-line editions will actually be able to pay reporters, or at least writers?  I've been wondering that for some time.

    And, of course, I'm sorry for your (our) loss.

    The only frame change that matters: the corporate media = propaganda machine. Americans must find their news elsewhere.

    by geomoo on Thu Feb 07, 2008 at 11:50:52 PM PST

    •  good question (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a gilas girl, geomoo

      John Nichols was on the local progressive radio station this morning and he made a good point.  If you believe the internet is here to stay, then this will be (eventually) economically successful.

      One thing the CapTimes has going for it is that it is owned by the Evjue Foundation and has an endowment that can help it blaze the trail from dead trees to web.  So more than many other papers who are first and foremost driven by profit, the Cap Times has breathing room to invest and make this work.

      Here's hoping.

      dissent not only welcome... but encouraged

      by newfie53523 on Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 06:50:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This one should be viable (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The Capital Times gets lots of money from its longtime contract with the Wisconsin State Journal -- a very complicated setup in which they split all revenues.  So money wasn't really the problem. It was the inefficiency of having a large staff putting out a good newspaper for a dwindling circulation.  
      Under the new plan, the paper will get a lot more bang (readers) for its investment and effort.
      There'll be a good-size, pretty well paid newsroom staff devoted to a cutting-edge, constantly updated Web site and two widely distributed weekly tabloids focusing on its areas of greatest expertise.    
      This is a ground-breaking plan. Journalists all over the country will be watching it closely.

      •  Very interesting. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I hope it all works out so that good writers get paid for their work and progressive views are broadcast.  Thanks for the encouraging information.

        The only frame change that matters: the corporate media = propaganda machine. Americans must find their news elsewhere.

        by geomoo on Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 10:27:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  indeed (0+ / 0-)

        This has the makings of the coolest thing to happen in the "newspaper" business that I've seen since color pictures.  And the Cap Times staff is so good that I think this has a great chance for success.

        Being Madison will help.   WXXM-FM (The Mic 92.1), the progressive station that carrries Air America programming as well as Stephanie Miller and Ed Schultz, has shown amazing tenacity.  It has been able to make it to where it is because of strong audience issue in competing points of view.

        It's not easy being a trailblazer.  Skeptics abound.  But if it works -- and I think it will -- then who cares what detractors say now.

        dissent not only welcome... but encouraged

        by newfie53523 on Mon Feb 11, 2008 at 05:30:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  A toast to the Cap Times for being so innovative (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          and gutsy in its determination to carry on its 90-year-old Progressive legacy.  
          You're right, there are skeptics. But also many who are full of praise. An impressed higher-up at Editor & Publisher said that "this could be the newspaper story of the year."
          A local conservative columnist openly expressed worry about the Cap Times reaching 80,000 State Journal readers twice a week, plus widespread free distribution on news racks. (Guess he fears Progressive views are contagious, which they are.)  
          It'll be a fun ride, starting April 30.
          Enjoyed your comments, geomoo and newfie.

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