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Toronto Star on the state of the newspaper business

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Huggy, Apr 8, 2007.

  1. Huggy

    Huggy Well-Known Member

  2. chazp

    chazp Active Member

    Hey, wait a minute, does this mean my paycheck this Friday won't be my last. Damn!
  3. SoSueMe

    SoSueMe Active Member

    This article is precisely why I think online news will eventually fail. I'm not sitting here, leaning forward, scrolling down the screen umpteen times to finish it.

    We get the Star at work, and I'll read it, in its entirity, either in the bathroom or at home.
  4. JR

    JR Active Member

    I was just about to post this.

    David Olive is a good writer-he's primarily known as a business guy

    I think he makes some good points.

    To be forcefully relevant again, newspapers need to rediscover a point of view even at the risk of alienating readers, to champion selected causes, to develop unsurpassed proficiency in coverage of niche topics (the L.A. Times inexplicably has never attempted to become the undisputed leader in coverage of Hollywood), and, in the case of metropolitan dailies, to adopt "hyperlocalism" as their mantra.

    That means using the paper's online edition, rather than costly newsprint, to cover every MTHL game, traffic bottleneck, restaurant opening, poetry reading, panel discussion on income trusts, Ontario Municipal Board hearing on a controversial office-tower project, and Teacher of the Year ceremony.

    It means an online What's On calendar of local events of every description so office workers can start their day by planning their evening, with one click. It means stand-up video reports by journalists to give a face and a voice to the newspaper. And it means 360-degree videos of every hockey rink and ballpark in the city; a pop-up map on how to get to that poetry reading; and a link to a transcript of the speech that Jodie Foster gave at Convocation Hall two nights ago.
  5. crusoes

    crusoes Active Member

    And some people will have to work after 4:59 p.m. Editors, even.
  6. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I've reached the point that I'm skeptical, borderline cynical, about any written pronouncements about what we must become. If the person truly had the answer, he would be too busy saving our industry to write about it and we would be studying his newspaper so we all could do the same thing. No one has found The Answer. If any cure were working even a little, we are all desperate enough that we would swallow our pride and follow their lead.

    A journalist I respect told me in an annoyed tone a couple years ago, "We have to do something." I completely understand that mind-set, but the current sense of panic -- try anything -- is counterproductive. We are like a losing football team throwing deep and getting intercepted time and time again, putting ourselves further and further behind.

    Perhaps because many of our leaders are fearful and insecure -- and who can blame them for feeling that way? -- we are unwilling to look in great depth at why each successive panacea has failed. We have been reinventing ourselves and predicting doom for at least as long as I've been paying attention, which would be the mid-1970s. And we have recycled more than a few solutions that failed the first time we tried them and then failed again a decade or two later. Rarely do we consider that our latest solution has just as much chance of making the situation worse as it does to improve it. We do not learn from our mistakes -- hell, we don't even admit them.

    Am I suggesting we do nothing? No, but I think we need to accept three ideas:

    1.) We can't look to our peers in other cities for one-size-fits-all answers. It is easier to let other people do our thinking for us, but there is no evidence that this is an effective strategy. It is counterproductive to knee-jerk every time a new industrywide study is released. The newspapers that have remained relatively stable have made decisions specific to their markets. They have made an effort to know and understand their specific audiences. For instance, the current fad is going local-local-local, and in fact in some markets this might be the right choice. Other markets are a bit more sophisticated and demand a less parochial product. We can't afford to ignore their needs just because newspapers elsewhere are doing the opposite.

    2.) Most of us became journalists with a sense of populism, and while we shouldn't lose our admirable devotion to looking out for the less fortunate, we need to accept that he is not necessarily our most likely customer. We can still work on his behalf without gearing our newspaper to him. We need to separate the two ideals, that's all. Increasingly, our most likely customer is one so driven to succeed that he forces himself to stay informed. We can't afford to waste his time with crap, nor can we afford to insult his intelligence and risk driving him away. We need to be newsy and smart -- and sophisticated in presentation and content. This kind of reader always will be attractive to advertisers no matter how far circulation slips.

    3.) We are planning defensively when we see the Internet as an electronic newspaper. We are missing a virtually unregulated opportunity to compete hard against TV and radio -- this is where we can capture that audience that doesn't like to read, not by dumbing down the newspaper. There is no reason why we shouldn't be competing with Webcasts head to head against TV news broadcasts and all-news radio. Almost certainly our content will be better because we have larger newsrooms than the local TV and radio stations. But we need to recruit from TV so the quality of delivery will be competitive with the TV stations'.
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