3/1/12

Changing social power is reflected in the sales of newspaper offices

Newspapers across the US are shedding large downtown buildings in favor of more modest facilities, often away from the center of cities.

The downsizing is the consequence of reduced need for office space following staff cuts, changes in production technologies that reduce space requirements, and the outsourcing many printing and distribution activities. Examples include:
  • The Miami Herald has sold its bayfront building and the 14 acres around it for $236 million and is planning to relocate elsewhere next in 2013. It will use the proceeds to pay down debt and pension liabilities.
  • The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram has sold its home for the past 90 years and will be moving to new offices this spring
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  • The Boulder Daily Camera in Boulder, CO, sold its downtown facilities for $9 million and is moving to facilities outside the center of town.
  • The Tribune & Georgian in St. Mary’s, GA, shed its former building by donating it to United Way of Camden Country in February to be used for work space and a training resource center for charitable organizations. The paper no longer used the building because it had moved to other facilities after outsourcing its printing operations.
The changes are not just indicative of the changing financial and operational characteristics of newspapers, but of the position of newspapers as major institutions in society. Over the past 150 years, newspapers used the wealth they generated to construct buildings in the center of towns—sometimes monumental and architecturally significant edifices—that reflected their importance and power in the community and their location at the center of society.

Social, economic, and technology developments have stripped that wealth from the newspaper industry. But cities are also changing and many downtown areas are no longer the locus of economic and political power in communities. As we continue to move more firmly into the digital age, the physical manifestations of where the center of society is located will continue to change.

Changes in media and media industries reflect deeper social changes that will continue altering our lives in may ways for many years to come.

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