Half of the twentieth century sparked fierce opposition from printing workers’ unions, traditionally among the most powerful labor unions. The operators of the outdated Linotype machines were initially “taken type on computer keyboards. However, as computers became more advanced, this function became obsolete, with word processing for journalists, graphics programs for illustrators, and editing tools created expressly for newspaper editors. The proprietor replaced highly skilled production workers with less competent and lower-paid staff to undertake more regular activities such as typing as the computer-optimized the basic processes of newspaper production.
Defend union workers’ employment and benefits even before the Linotype machine was introduced. Like the other printing craftsmen, the type compositors were well compensated for their abilities, and they were required to perform night shifts on morning papers. When unions established strict rules on labor demarcation (jobs that specific employees could only do) and working hours and conditions, overstaffing became common in newspaper printing departments. Strikes by workers were a potent tool against newspaper owners because even a single day’s loss of circulation may drive readers to another publication. It was also feared that the average reader would not miss his newspaper enough to buy it again after the strike, especially because radio and television made the news so readily available.
Many newspapers were compelled to merge or cease publishing in the 1960s due to increased competition from television news programming and an environment of rising production costs—some belief caused by powerful labor unions. Newspaper union strikes in New York City in 1962–63 resulted in the shutdown of numerous papers before the end of the decade.
Regardless of the newspaper’s history and heritage or the number of faithful readers, it was often not committed to continuing an unprofitable title. High circulation figures were meaningless if the paper failed to generate advertising income and could not profit due to excessive production expenses. Corporate decisions were increasingly decided at levels much above the newspaper manager, and the firm that owned the newspaper was increasingly a conglomerate with different industrial interests. Some well-known newspapers, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, have benefited financially from the conglomerate’s profits. In contrast, others, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, have blended family shares in the business with corporate ownership.
Owning a prestigious title can add prestige to a company. Some businesspeople still aspire to be like the press barons of old—especially in the United Kingdom, where a significant percentage of newspaper owners have been elevated to the peerage. However, it is not uncommon for famous newspapers to change hands repeatedly or to face bankruptcy and other management issues.
Newspaper markets are maturing.
Despite the competition from other mass media such as radio, television, and Internet news sites, many newspapers, large and small, have remained appealing to readers and profitable to run.