A Mile High and On The Air

A few weeks ago I was a guest of the Society of Professional  Journalists in Denver to speak at the Denver Press Club about my new book. The audience of journalists from the Rocky Mountain News, http://www.rockymountainnews.com/ , Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/ and other local publications asked a lot of good questions and made me rethink much of what I have been researching and speaking about — how newspapers have changed and what may happen to newspapers in the future.

It’s not just theory. It’s about keeping jobs and it’s about the projected viability of a profession in disruption. Is this brand of everyman news the salvo for newspapers? What if editors don’t buy into the audience preference for anecdotal, featurized news? What if readers decide they don’t really want them?

So many economic and behavioral factors contribute to a newspaper’s success. The business model of ads supporting the editorial has been blown up and readjusted by everything from craig’slist to pop up ads. The reason readers migrate from newspapers is not just about getting news on the Internet instead, it’s about a lack of time to absorb the almost limitless number of outlets offering information, opinion, commentary, entertainment and distraction.

The Denver reporters asked a lot of hard questions.

  • What if I don’t write the everyman narrative? Will I lose my job?
  • What if my editors don’t like us or allow us to do the everyman narrative, will my paper fold?
  • By letting bloggers and citizen journalists participate, are we lessening the brand of a distinguished, reliable newspaper?
  • Our stories are getting shorter, not longer; is that wrong?
  • When the front page is only one story, is that wrong?
  • What will happen to investigative journalism?
  • What if I don’t turn to multimedia, am I doomed?
  • Does anyone want to read the traditional newspaper anymore?
  • I have all these multimedia tools and not a clue what to do with them, now what?
  • Is the trend continuing of increased features, feature approaches and unofficial sources?

That sent me back to work. I covered the same 20 newspapers in the original study and took March 4 as a sample day. I counted features and news on the front pages and I counted feature approaches vs. hard news approaches on all the stories. The verdict is the trend is continuing and widening.

 Shortly after I returned from Denver, I was a guest on Rick Kogan’s “Sunday Papers” show on WGN-AM raido in Chicago. We talked on air about what this means and whether or not the softening of news is a good thing for journalism. A few days later I was on the Milt Rosenberg Show on WGN-AM, a two-hour live chat that was nerve-wracking and exciting.

Milt may well be the smartest man in the universe and his other guests included Bill Parker, the front page editor of the Chicago Tribune, and former Tribune managing editor and author F. Richard Ciccone.

 We talked about the future of news and how people still want to get the paper on the doorstep promptly every morning, even if they are hybrid consumers of news gathering sources from online, radio, television and print.

Even though I have been a guest on  a number of radio shows over the last 10 years, I relearned that live radio is a lot harder than sitting at my laptop and typing. I also am reassured that I have a very nasal Chicago accent.      

    

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