Yesterday's fire sale of The Washington Post is Reason No. 2,341,649 Americans need to wake up and face what happened to Detroit. It's a simple lesson in economics - you can't sell newspapers if people can't read them.
According to estimates by The National Institute for Literacy, roughly 47 percent of adults in Detroit, Michigan -- 200,000 total -- are "functionally illiterate," meaning they have trouble with reading, speaking, writing and computational skills. Even more surprisingly, the Detroit Regional Workforce finds half of that illiterate population has obtained a high school degree.
Faced with years of financial losses, dwindling circulation and advertising revenue declines that forced job and benefit cuts — along with slashing home delivery most days — Detroit's two major newspapers are now funding a contest to help stop the bleeding.
The Detroit Media Partnership LP, which manages the joint business functions of The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, today unveiled IdeaQuest 2011, which offers $10,000 in prize money for the two best ideas that help the newspapers "better serve the community and help grow their audiences." [...]
Despite cost-cutting measures such as limiting home delivery and reducing staff size and benefits, the partnership has acknowledged that it continues to lose money, but hasn't been specific on how much. Losses are believed to remain in the millions annually.
Average daily average circulation at The Free Press fell 9 percent to 245,326 from 269,729 in Schaumburg, Ill.-based Audit Bureau of Circulations' six-month period of measurement ending in October. The newspaper's Sunday edition dropped nearly 12 percent to 494,013 from 560,188 in that time.
The Detroit News' daily average circulation dropped 12.4 percent to 146,962 from 167,849. That includes its home-delivered Thursday and Friday print editions and its newsstand editions Monday-Wednesday and Saturday. It doesn't have a Sunday edition.
[The combined weekday circulation is now 437,569]
The combined weekday circulation of the newspapers was more than 900,000 before the 1995 strike and boycott by unionized employees -- a labor dispute that lasted more than five years and cost the publications more than $200 million.
WASHINGTON DC 2007:
About one-third of the people living in the national's capital are functionally illiterate, compared with about one-fifth nationally, according to a report on the District of Columbia.
Washington, D.C. had the worst high school graduation rate in the country in 2011 — down roughly 20 percent from just two years ago. The drop appears partially the result of a new (and better) accounting system that tracks actual students rather than allowing a ridiculous calculation method that tended to inflate numbers. Nevada had the lowest graduation rate of any state (62 percent) and D.C. did worse than Native American reservations (61 percent).
WASHINGTON DC 2012:
At first glance, The Washington Post’s numbers reported Tuesday morning in the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ March report look grisly: Of all the Top 25 papers in the report, The Post has the steepest drop in average Sunday circulation, down 15.66 percent. That reflects a loss of 133,560 readers in a year. Average daily numbers are down 43,206 copies for a 7.84 percent drop.
WASHINGTON DC 2013:
The announcement that the Washington Post Co. sold its flagship paper to billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for $250 million, surprised everyone. And in an era when the Washington Post sells Newsweek for $1 and the New York Times sells the Boston Globe at a 93% loss; $250 million might sound like a lot of money. But buried in the Post's own reporting of its sale is the news that ten years ago the Post would have sold for $2 billion with a -B-.
That represents an 87% loss in just a decade. You figure in ten years of inflation and we are probably over 90%.
UNITED STATES 2012:
- 54% of African Americans graduate from high school, compared to more than three quarters of white and Asian students.
- On average, African American twelfth-grade students read at the same level as white eighth-grade students.
- The twelfth-grade reading scores of African American males were significantly lower than those for men and women across every other racial and ethnic group.
- Only 14% of African American eighth graders score at or above the proficient level. These results reveal that millions of young people cannot understand or evaluate text, provide relevant details, or support inferences about the written documents they read.
- The majority of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails are people of color, people with mental health issues and drug addiction, people with low levels of educational attainment, and people with a history of unemployment or underemployment.
...We have been successful too because Americans have known that one's status of birth is not a permanent condition. Americans have believed that you might not be able to control your circumstances but you can control your response to your circumstances.
And your greatest ally in controlling your response to your circumstances has been a quality education. But today, today, when I can look at your zip code and I can tell whether you're going to get a good education, can I honestly say it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going? The crisis in K-12 education is a threat to the very fabric of who we are.
And we need to give parents greater choice, particularly, particularly poor parents whose kids, very often minorities, are trapped in failing neighborhood schools.
This is the civil rights issue of our day.
-- Condolezza Rice, August 29, 2012 Republican National Convention