Dead trees weighed on third-quarter results at E.W. Scripps ( SSP) and Belo Corp. ( BLC), underscoring why both have announced plans to separate their beleaguered newspaper publishing operations from their healthier assets. Scripps on Thursday reported a 21% jump in earnings for the third quarter, beating expectations, thanks to growth at its cable networks. The company's newspaper unit, which includes the Rocky Mountain News, recorded a 7% drop in profits and a 6% decline in overall revenue to $158 million, despite a 19% increase in online revenue, which totaled only $10.4 million. Belo, which publishes the Dallas Morning News and Providence Journal, posted a 2% decline in earnings, due in part to weakness in ad sales. Its newspaper group logged a 7.8% drop in revenue, while its TV revenue climbed 1.8%. The results highlight an ongoing, industry-wide decline in newspaper publishing as consumers gravitate to the Internet for their information needs and ad dollars are sucked up by online news aggregators like Google ( GOOG) and Yahoo! ( YHOO). The situation has been exacerbated by an epic slump in the U.S. housing market that is wreaking havoc in the broader economy and slamming classified ad spending. Investors have pressured media companies throughout the industry to take dramatic steps to stop the bleeding, only to be met with resistance from publishers -- many of whom are tightly controlled by families steeped in a proud tradition of newspaper journalism that they view as vital to the health of American democracy.