Bronstein: The future of news, and other buzzwords

March 29, 2008

bronstein2.jpgFormer San Francisco Chronicle Editor Phil Bronstein has taken on a new role at parent company Hearst Corp. that will involve, among other things, finding ways to keep the news business viable at a time when most people have classified it as a dying industry.Meanwhile, don’t expect the solution to come from him — or anyone else for that matter.

Here’s what Bronstein said in an interview in his office at the Chronicle on Friday:

Reuters: How does the newspaper business need to change?

Bronstein: How it needs to change? Anybody who tells you they have the answer to that question, or the answer to the question, “what’s the successful business model for journalism, is lying to you.” Because no one has it. People are doing things that may end up being right. Everybody’s reinventing, blowing up… You could write a great historical memo from an anonymous editor using only buzzwords that editors use in their speeches to the newsroom: “This is how you do it,” “We have to engage the reader more,” “We have to be more nimble,” “We have to be more Web-friendly.”

Bronstein also talked about the financial future of newspapers:”They’re not viable in their current mode. Some newspapers are still making a lot of money, relatively a lot less than they were. So at some point you’re not making any money and in fact you’re losing a bunch of money. And so then, who’s going to want to put up with that? Certainly not the new billionaires. How long ago was it that reporters were saying, ‘This was the savior?’ All these quirky pioneering billionaires were buying newspapers, and now you’ve got the billionaires saying, ‘What the hell are we doing. What were we thinking?’”

Photo/Reuters: San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Bronstein (Second from right) walk to federal court house in San Francisco.


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“They’re not viable in their current mode. Some newspapers are still making a lot of money, relatively a lot less than they were. So at some point you’re not making any money and in fact you’re losing a bunch of money”

Well, newspapers are due to change, because the world around us changes. But we shouldn’t be afraid of that, the world is in constant development, progression, and trying to stop that would be like trying to stop the end of the middle ages…

Bronstein’s a little late to the conversation, dontcha think? Thing is, he had opportunity to make substantive changes a few years back and he 1) first didn’t do it and then 2) did exactly what he spouts as mistakes by others… went for a glitzy “blow up” concept. Laughable!

Posted by CK | Report as abusive

Small weekly and daily newspapers are not worth the prices buyers are paying. If I had $100,000 or $1 million in cash available, I’d use that money to buy CDs rather than a newspaper business. People who read small town weeklies and daily newspapers are mostly middle age or senior citizens. Once they’re gone, so goes the printed newspaper. Generation Xers get their news from the Internet

Posted by E Anderson | Report as abusive

Too bad Bronstein was such an unoriginal, inside-the-box, dysfunctional and scattered editor during his tenure at the Chronicle. He cut a handsome, macho figure, and he was a brilliant self-promoter. But during those seven years, the Chronicle’s circulation dropped by 30 percent – a faster decline than any other major U.S. newspaper, and testimony to his abject failure as editor.

Posted by Chron newsroom | Report as abusive

If Bronstein is the great white hope, how come the S.F. Chronicle which he headed is such a sucky no-news publication?

Posted by edward | Report as abusive

“Generation Xers get their news from the Internet” … and where does the Internet get its news? It lifts it from major newspapers. Newspapers need to bolster their Web presence, get rid of the precious feature twaddle — and stop giving it away for free. Somebody’s got to pay for those reporters who actually dig out and write the news.

Posted by Petey | Report as abusive