More Papers Drop Stock-Quote Tables

Many newspapers are dropping daily listings of stocks and mutual funds, citing a need to save money and the trend of people checking their portfolios online. Some of their readers are protesting this change in their daily routine.

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DEBBIE ELLIOT, host:

You may have noticed that your daily newspaper no longer contains a lengthy, comprehensive listing of stock and mutual fund quotes. This week, the Chicago Tribune joined a growing number of papers trimming their stock pages. They'll print the full listing on Saturdays only.

NPR's David Schaper reports on why.

DAVID SCHAPER reporting:

Newspapers these days can ill afford to lose even just a few readers. That's probably why in the calendar hanging on the wall of the office of Chicago Tribune Business Editor Jim Kirk, Wednesday January 18th was marked in red as D-Day, the day the paper stopped printing a business section as thick as the one from the 17th, which Kirk picks up off his desk.

Mr. JIM KIRK (Associate Managing Editor for Business News, Chicago Tribune): If you look at it, its about three, three and a half. Those are roughly about three and a half pages.

SCHAPER: Those pages of long tables listing stock and mutual fund quotes line after line in tiny black and white type are no more.

Now Kirk says daily stock market information is condensed onto one page, the back page of the business section with sharper graphics.

Mr. KIRK: It's the top, top 20 gainers of the New York Stock Exchange, top 20 losers of the day. Same with NASDAQ, stocks of local interests, the 15 most widely held.

SCHAPER: Kirk says the page devotes more space to analysis of the market news of the day with columns and articles looking behind the numbers of the companies that are moving the stock market up or down.

The reason for the change according to Kirk is the simple reality of the marketplace.

Mr. KIRK: We are in a much more competitive environment for up to the minute news all over the place, especially financial information.

SCHAPER: Kirk says newspaper readers who really want specific stock information can already get it any time.

Mr. KIRK: At work they're on a computer, they're on the Internet. It takes two seconds to look up your stock. To follow it throughout the day you could look at it five or six times a day.

SCHAPER: At a time newspapers are losing readers and advertising revenue, the Tribune's move makes sense according to Mark Fitzgerald, a Chicago-based editor at large for the trade publication Editor and Publisher.

Mr. MARK FITZGERALD (Editor-at-large, Editor and Publisher): With the cost of newsprint, it's just a losing proposition to continue to add page after page of this agget (ph) that nobody really needs to read.

SCHAPER: Fitzgerald says several newspapers have been trimming back their stock and mutual fund tables over the past couple of years even at the risk of alienating some readers, because in this rapidly changing marketplace for news and information he says newspapers cannot afford to be in print what they used to be.

Mr. FITZGERALD: Big papers like dominant papers like the Tribune in their market would often refer to themselves as the newspaper of record. Well the newspaper industry runs away from that. Nobody wants to be the newspaper of record anymore.

SCHAPER: Instead, Fitzgerald and other industry observers say newspapers need to get more readers using their websites. The Chicago Tribune for example launched a new web service offering personalized stock data and individualized investment news. The Tribune's Kirk fielded complaints, but he says fewer readers cancelled subscriptions than expected. Still he empathizes with readers like one woman he talked with who know they can get their daily stock quotes other ways.

Mr. KIRK: She told me that she likes to go out in her driveway, pick up the paper and just sit and spread the stock tables out in front of her and just kind of with her tea kind of go through the stock tables every day.

SCHAPER: It's a struggle, Kirk says, for the Tribune and other newspapers to balance that kind of intimate reader relationship with the reality that there are fewer such readers every day.

David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

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