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While I completely agree with the principles you articulated on what makes for good journalism, I completely disagree with your overall negative assessment of the newly launched and designed Democrat and Chronicle ("The New, 'More,' D&C," Urban Journal).
In a time when so many local newspapers are folding, shrinking, or eliminating any semblance of deep reporting, we should applaud the D&C for its expanded commitment to quality local investigative journalism, its expanded coverage of New York state politics, and the smart decision to focus on Rochester innovation and business.
Its inclusion of USA Today is a logical move too, since due to the Internet, national news has become more a commodity. And while there is a downside to relying on a single publisher's reporters, reading stories from Gannet's journalists is far better than the D&C plugging in pre-packaged national wire service stories, as many other local newspapers now must do to save on reporter salaries.
Yes, some of the local stories highlighted on the front page seem minor and are given disproportionate attention. And the new editorial page design leaves something to be desired. But these are quibbles. The bottom line is that the D&C has survived the very treacherous transition to the new digital media world – and did so while expanding its commitment to local, regional, and investigative reporting.
And that's a good thing for the community.
I'm inclined to be more supportive of the D&C than you are in your column ("The New, 'More,' D&C," Urban Journal). I give them credit for experimenting with business model changes that keep the paper in print at all –going all electronic (as many peer newspapers have done) is a sorry capitulation.
Perhaps your frustration is more appropriately aimed at the readers, not the publishers. There is no newspaper without readers. To your closing question – what do research scientists, etc., read – I think they are doing what I do: read the New York Times online and subscribe to The Economist, The Atlantic, etc., and skim the D&C for local coverage, including the investigative stuff (which I agree is important and often quite good).
I generally don't bother with USA Today when given free in hotels and I don't read it now – but USA Today does offer more attractive coverage of national-international news than the D&C has been providing. Maybe, just maybe, more of the readers who don't seek out more robust coverage will be captured to read a bit more of this kind of news than they did under the old model.