The Providence Journal is raising its monthly subscription rates by nearly 33 percent, according to a letter it has sent to its “loyal subscribers,” asking them for their support, while touting the paper’s dedication to producing “in-depth stories and compelling journalism.”

The undated letter did not explain the monthly increase from $43.77 to $58 a month. The letter arrived at some subscribers’ homes today.

Like many print publications, the Journal’s circulation has plummeted over the last several years, from 164,000 daily and 231,000 on Sunday in 2005 to daily figures of 29,957 and Sunday circulation of 38,500. Usually, rate increases are followed by a decline in circulation.

While its news staff once numbered more than 300, today it has been reported at less than a dozen reporters.

The Providence Daily Journal was first published on July 1, 1829, eventually dropping the Daily from its name. For many years it published a morning newspaper (The Providence Journal) and afternoon or evening publication (The Evening Bulletin). It is considered the oldest continuously published daily newspaper in the United States.

It had one of the best local networks, with news bureaus in several Rhode Island communities, including Newport, and in nearby Massachusetts. The Journal also operated a Washington bureau.

Most of its news bureaus had several reporters, the largest, Warwick, with perhaps as many reporters as the newspaper has today.

Once, one of the nation’s prominent local and regional publications, it now primarily covers Providence, with no coverage of other local governments. 

The Journal’s loss of circulation is consistent with other print newspapers that have suffered because of the rise in technology, and the loss of local ownership.

Ben Bagdikian, a former Providence Journal reporter who went on to the Washington Post and to become dean of the journalism school at the University of California at Berklee, believed much of print’s demise was the result of the corporate takeover of many publications, where ownership no longer was responsible to the community but beholden to the shareholders. Bagdikian’s various iterations of his book, The Media Monopoly, details his belief about the impact of corporate ownership.

The Journal was no exception. For years, the Journal was family owned, but eventually was bought by Belo in Texas and now owned by Gannett Co. 

Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal....