Clarke County is a rural outpost 60 miles due west of Washington, DC. These days cows seem to outnumber residents now that beef prices are high.
Clarke is low on the Washington Post’s target list. It’s harder and harder to get a copy of the newspaper in these parts. And the ones that do make it over the mountain are sometimes lacking enough ink to read. Some copies of Sunday’s paper were so washed out they should have been dumped before they were delivered.
J&J Corner Store, known as “Doodles” to locals, gets two copies every morning. At the store on Route 7, the papers are gone by 8 AM. The Post refuses to deliver more copies.
On Main Street in downtown Berryville, locals gather at the Daily Grind for their coffee and espresso, locally made buns and scones. But not for the Washington Post.
“They quit dropping off papers,” the owner told me recently. “We begged.”
The Post has gone begging for readers over the past decade. Reading habits have changed. Eyeballs have gone to the Internet, where the Post is competing for attention and advertisers. But the economics and profits of newspapering still rely on revenues from ads and subscriptions from the print publication.
The Post receding from Clarke County might not mean much nor register in its strategy to survive. It should. The county, just across the Loudoun County line, is growing. Commuters from the west stream through every day. The Post used to wage war for readers and advertisers in far-flung counties. No more.
But readers don’t have to go begging for another national newspaper. The New York Times delivers to homes and drops off plenty of copies in stores in and around Berryville.
“We get plenty copies of the New York Times,” says a clerk at Red Apple convenience store, “and people snap them up.”
They might snap up the Post, if the Post cared to deliver.