MediaFile

When the going gets tough, newspapers clam up

November 7, 2008

The American Press Institute is gathering its newspaper nabobs to discuss ways to save their business. If you’re like this media reporter, you’d be interested in hearing what folks have to say when the conference happens. But you can’t; it’s closed to press.

Here’s Editor & Publisher:

The American Press Institute (API) will host an invitation-only, closed-door “summit conference” Nov. 13 in which 50 CEO-level executives will ponder ways to revive the newspaper business.

The one-day conference at API’s Reston, Va., headquarters will be “a facilitated discussion of concrete steps the industry can take to reverse its declines in revenue, profit and shareholder value.”

The API plans to release a report after the meeting. Of course, it would be interesting to hear the debate that goes into forming those conclusions. 

Many sources whom we deal with in the media world — particularly reporters, editors and other members of the editorial staff — find it funny that the industry they’re in (finding and reporting information, truthsquadding the government, holding the powerful accountable, etc. etc.) relies on publishers and other executives who are among the most press-averse people in the business world. Some executives talk. But many others hide, and only come out once a quarter to share some more bad news.

It could be that they have nothing positive to say, that they have no ideas how to save newspapers and that it really is a no-growth, dying business. Or it could be that they have some really revolutionary concept that they’re not ready to lay on us yet. Or maybe it’s the well intentioned public relations concept that you never tell people about bad news (unless securities laws require it) and you only tell them the good news — like the idea that Barack Obama’s victory leading to massive newspaper sales is a trend that somehow will last.

But as the future of newspapers dims even more, it would be interesting to hear every idea their people have to turn things around.

Meanwhile, we asked the API why they closed the event to working press, and will update when we get an answer.

(Photo: Reuters)

Comments
4 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Perhaps newspapers CEO’s will finally come to the realization that they have lost their stranglehold on the public’s attention forever. Like it or not, they have to compete for eyeballs with every lowly blogger.

So…If you can’t lick ‘em, join em! Take the lead in encouraging citizen journalism and add value by contributing editorial resources, provide access to multiple distribution channels and act as brokers of sponsorship deals. Help independent journalists make a living by monetizing their audiences.

Blow past cable news and go live, 24/7 with 10,000 stringers covering every story from every angle. Make it possible for every voice to be heard. Review, rate, edit, and fact check reportage from all sources constantly.

Engage with people. Most papers have active web sites; welcome each visitor with a live host, talk to them about the news, connect them to informed sources, and help people interesting in related stories connect to each other in real time.

The old business models have to die, but newspapers don’t.

 

The features of news are timely, ture and accuracy. when editors write something, they should be objective without combining their own feeling and affection. So if they rely on publisher or excutives too much, they may not write good and objective articles and this will blind our readers’ eyes

 

Steve, those are some interesting ideas that you present here. They loosely fall under Jeff Jarvis’s idea that you do what you do best and link to the rest.

That seems fair enough to me, but I’ll submit a humble plea and then a thought:

- Please let’s find another way to say “monetize,” one that is already in standard English. That smacks of PR talk.

- You suggest connecting visitors-cum-citizen-journalists with informed sources. I’m all for exploring new ways of practicing journalism, but if I shared my best sources with folks off the street, let alone my colleagues, I doubt they’d stay my sources for very long. My sources are like Charlton Heston’s guns — cold, dead hands.

Two other thoughts:

- It’s exceedingly difficult to read, rate and fact check the crowd. Copy editing ranks are on the wane, even for staff writers. A tough request. “Offshoring” that isn’t always the answer either. Often, copy-editing is best done by folks familiar with the vernacular in which the news is published. There’s the germ of a solution here, but we need to grow it into a tree.

- What are the sponsorship deals you refer to? Sounds interesting.

Posted by Robert MacMillan | Report as abusive
 

The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute is kicking off The Information Valet Project with a convening Dec. 3-5 in Columbia, Mo. It’s just the sort of blow-up-the-industry solution that’s need — a complete change of perspective away from a focus on a product — the newspaper — and to a new relationship with users. For more information see: http://www.ivpblueprint.org

 

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