The publisher of the Los Angeles Times took over the San Diego Union Tribune last month and that seemed to confirm a projection I heard not long ago from someone high up in the newspaper industry: In the not too distant future, there will be only one newspaper ownership in Southern California.

It’s all about the adverse trends that newspapers are suffering in the emerging digital world. According to the Pew Research Center, “Steep revenue and circulation declines across the newspaper industry have left many newspapers struggling. Over the past decade, weekday circulation has fallen 17% and ad revenue more than 50%.”

The economics indicate that many newspapers will battle to survive opening the possibility that the largest whale in the newspaper sea would gobble up the other fish in the area.

Assuming that comes to pass, a question arises if newspapers under one management remain independent? That is the goal according the new owners of the San Diego paper. Take a look at the announcement that appeared in the Los Angeles Times after the merger.

fox_newspaperTwo independent voices is the claim according to the announcement. It is important that distinct voices remain. One board overseeing the major newspapers in the state’s two largest cities should not dictate singular editorial judgment. If the prediction of only one newspaper publisher for all of Southern California newspapers comes to be, the concern will be even greater.

Some may ask, “What does it matter?” Newspaper and editorial influence has been on the wane for a long time. Few people read editorials. The same concern was raised when multiple publications in major cities began to disappear and now most cities have but one major daily.

Yet, the editorial content and the way it is presented does matter. The numbers of newspapers are down, it is true, but so is the percentage of voters. Those who do vote are influenced by editorials, if not directly, then in the multiple contacts by campaigns that use the editorials in advertising to reflect independent analysis. While that influence of editorial comment may have faded from the glory days of newspapers, it is still relevant and important.

One has to look at the promise of independence for different newspapers with a jaundice eye. Already the San Diego paper has seen some layoffs. Efficiency experts could suggest a reduction of employees by condensing or even eliminating editorial staffs.

Different voices increase the opportunity for serious debate within the marketplace of ideas. If newspaper ownership is consolidated with a loss of distinct voices, a vacuum in that marketplace of ideas would be filled with many smaller but, hopefully, influential voices, both print and digital.