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Watchful Eyes on Kansas Media Innovations

Media analysts say circulation has stagnated at many papers, and younger readers are turning to other sources of information. Many media companies hoped that convergence — combining television, print and online resources — would help them survive. Instead, many companies have lost money on online journalism.

In Lawrence, Kan., Dolph Simons' Journal-World newspaper has taken ambitious news-gathering approaches to local issues. The company's efforts have sparked innovation, controversy — and no small amount of envy within the industry.

Despite its steady circulation of just 20,000, the Journal-World has a staff of 44 — and plans for expansion. That's due in large part to parent World Company's thriving subsidiaries, from Sunflower cable, which serves 80 percent of Lawrence homes, to Sunflower Broadband, with 50 percent of the market.

The World Co., privately held by the Simons family, has accepted a single-digit profit margin for its newspaper. Rob Curley, the top news editor in Lawrence, says sometimes the Web sites just break even.

Publicly traded media companies say they're pursuing similar strategies, most would not accept the low profitability that could follow. For instance, the Gannett Company, with 102 daily newspapers and 21 television stations, seeks minimum profit margins of 20 to 30 percent for its newspapers.

While the impact of World's approach is uncertain, the company is reaching forward, podcasting music programs and sending text to cell phones. And it's experimenting with video, sending sports clips and news to wireless devices.

This is the second in a two-part series on new media.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.