Newspapers in this country have been in trouble ever since a thing called the Internet caught on big-time, about a decade ago.
Twenty years ago, owning a newspaper was often something like having a license to print money. If you had local products or services to sell, or wanted to get rid of that litter of puppies, a newspaper ad was the way to do it.
The revenue enabled the owners of the newspaper to make a good living, and have money to pay reporters to cover the news of your town, state, and maybe even the world.
Getting the news, was, after all, the reason most people bought, or, better yet, subscribed to the paper in the first place.
Newspapers preferred subscribers. That way they could guarantee to advertisers that so many thousands of people were sure to see their ad every day.
But then the Internet came along, and it suddenly became possible to put your ad in cyberspace for free. That took revenue away from newspapers, big-time. Additionally, most papers started offering most or all of their content online for free.
That was the hip and trendy thing to do in the 1990s. It was meant to be a come-on to get people to buy the printed product, but it had the opposite effect. Nobody buys a cow when milk is free.
These developments put newspapers on the ropes. Ann Arbor's paper closed down. Last March, the two Detroit dailies announced they would deliver the paper only on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. Otherwise, you could read them online.
But lots of people still can't or won't read papers online. Knowing this, two brothers from Florida named Mark and Gary Stern announced they would publish a home-delivered, seven day a week paper, called the Detroit Daily Press.
This was seen as very exciting, especially to the many out-of-work journalists in the area, who lined up to apply for jobs.
I was skeptical, but hopeful. The newspapers started appearing in convenience stores last week. Home delivery was about to start, and I signed up for a subscription. My first copy was supposed to arrive today. But late last week, after vowing the paper was here to stay, the paper issued this statement. "Due to circumstances beyond our control, lack of advertising, and a lack of distribution and sales, we find it necessary to temporarily suspend publication."
They vowed to return after the first of the year. Nobody I've talked to thinks they will. Journalists seemed stunned. Not, however, Ben Burns, a former newspaper editor and publisher. He says everybody was so in love with the idea of a new paper that nobody asked the tough questions. "What made them think they could sell ads in this market when the longtime dailies and weeklies can't? How are they setting up a distribution and home delivery network? How are they going to be able to afford to cover this vast area, and pay the staff?
For now, it seems that the answer is that they can't. What's saddest of all is that there are an increasing number of us who no longer have access to the information we greatly need.
The information superhighway is a grand thing. But for those who don't have a vehicle, it is a road to nowhere. And it just got a little more gloomy out there for those who've been left behind.