The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver is reporting that it will return to its old offices in a desperate attempt to stay afloat.
The move, according to Columbian Publisher Scott Campbell, is out of the need to generate more revenue from a new six-story building constructed by Campbell and his wife, Jody, which opened south of Esther Short Park in January. The options, Campbell said, are to either lease all of the 118,000-square-foot $30 million structure or to sell it. At present, Columbian newsroom, advertising and circulation operations occupy four of the six floors in the building at 415 W. Sixth St.
And bankruptcy isn’t out of the question:
In order to make the difficult financial transition, Campbell said the company is trying to negotiate a new loan with its lender or will seek temporary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors. Chapter 11 gives a business time to reorganize and return to financial health.
Whew. I’m no expert but given what we’ve been hearing about the credit crisis created by the mortgage scandal, that sounds pretty grim.
I have to confess I have mixed emotions about this. On the one hand, the heart of newspapers is news gathering, and the thought of Clark County not having a daily newspaper would mean that some 400,000 residents would find out even less about what is happening in their community. Sure, it’s possible that Oregon media would increase their coverage some, but The Oregonian has laid off tons of people this year as well. And Oregon TV stations are, well, TV stations.
On the other hand, Campbell runs a newspaper that printed the likes of Michelle Malkin for a long stretch of time, while adopting a thoroughly anti-union stance and coddling the local wingnuts. The standing joke for years has been that Campbell would be better off if he just sold the newspaper and concentrated on his apparent first love, real estate. Of course, that’s not looking so hot right now either.
The whole thing is kind of weird coming on the heels of a series of endorsements favoring Democrats. It’s as if The Columbian has come to the belated realization that the folks intent on destroying the “EM ESS EM” are not, in fact, the liberals, who despite grumping about various editorial positions and tendencies in reporting at least acknowledge the role a free press is supposed to play in our system.
Then there’s the collapse of the housing market itself and the attendant ad revenue. No point in advertising new houses when nobody is building them and nobody is buying them. So much for diversification of the Clark County economy. That turned out to be so much hot air, no surprise. The business of Clark County the last eighteen years or so has been building as many houses as possible, and now the residents shall pay the economic penalty.
They can be a cantankerous lot down there at The Columbian, so I wouldn’t rule out a McCain endorsement just yet. They seem to delight in making as many people angry as possible sometimes, just to prove a point. What the point would be with a McCain endorsement I don’t know, but trust me, they could come up with something.
Overall, the troubles at The Columbian are a continuation of ongoing problems in the industry, exacerbated by poor ownership, an unpopular editorial stance and small town cronyism. It’s entirely likely that Clark County will not have a daily newspaper at some point in the not-so-distant future.
And that’s a bad thing.