It used to be that every city had two newspapers – one in the morning, another in the afternoon. Or more. One was Republican, at least on its editorial page; the other, Democrat. You had a choice, and you had keen competition.
Frequently, the afternoon paper had the bigger circulation. Often, too, it concentrated on the hometown news and features, while the morning rival took a more serious tone, including more national and international coverage.
But then something shifted: afternoon circulation numbers began shrinking. We thought it had something to do with what we were publishing. The reality, however, had to do with the workplace. First, fewer Americans were working in factories – they weren’t getting off at 3 in the afternoon and heading home. And second, fewer workers were taking public transportation – they were driving, instead. And that meant they weren’t reading one paper while waiting for the bus or the train, and then reading the other for the return trip. As for the leisurely late afternoon before supper, it had vanished: they weren’t getting home until 6 or later.
One by one, the once prosperous afternoon editions folded or moved over to morning. And now you know why.