December 5, 2023

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McClatchy death spiral continues; Eagle to cut Saturday print edition

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The Wichita Eagle Saturday edition is about to land on the dustbin of history. McClatchy, which owns the Eagle and the Kansas City Star, in August, announced the paper would cease Saturday print publication. The Nov. 16 newspaper will be the Eagle’s final Saturday print edition.

The Eagle made its announcement in an email to subscribers. The email said that Saturday coverage will be exclusively online after Nov. 16. Despite the move to a digital-only product on Saturdays, the Eagle isn’t offering a refund or reduced subscriber rates. 

“The Wichita Eagle is changing to make sure we are able to meet the needs of our readers and the communities we serve long into the future,” the email reads. “…More and more of our customers are engaging with our local journalism online. This is not only a trend in Wichita. It is a widespread trend in the media industry, and in fact, all industries.”

In April, its Myrtle Beach paper, the Sun News, cut its print schedule to six-days-per week, eliminating Saturdays. Over the summer, McClatchy announced what it is calling “Digital Saturdays” at dailies like the Durham (North Carolina) Herald Sun and the Bellingham (Washington) Herald.

The newspaper chain reports its move from print to digital in glowing terms, announcing a partnership with Google, named The Compass Experiment, to develop “essential and sustainable local digital news models.”

As part of the experiment, McClatchy will open a handful of digital-only news outlets. The company launched its first digital-only media outlet to cover Youngstown, Ohio. 

“When we heard that Youngstown’s daily newspaper, The Vindicator, would be closing, we saw an opportunity to help a community with a rich heritage and distinct identity find a path forward for local news,” Mandy Jenkins, the general manager of the Compass Experiment, said in a McClatchy press release.

In Wichita, McClatchy will launch a Weekend Edition with plumper Friday and Sunday print papers.

“On Saturdays, we will continue to publish breaking local news to our website and social media platforms,” the email to subscribers from the Eagle reads. The Eagle Saturday eEdition will replicate the experience of a print paper in digital form.

The second-quarter earnings report from the Eagle parent company suggests that digital alone might not be enough to save the newspaper chain. According to McClatchy’s Q2 report, digital-only revenue dipped by 13.2 percent compared to the first half of 2018.

McClatchy issued a dismal second earnings report in August. The Eagle and Star parent company lost $17.5 million in 2019, which McClatchy reported as a “13.9 percent improvement from the loss of $20.4 million… in the second quarter of 2018.” The SEC filing also revealed that McClatchy is seeking an IRS waiver to delay payments to its pension fund. Without the waiver, the Saturday print edition might not be the only newspaper to disappear. McClatchy reported less than $20 million in cash-on-hand.

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