Has print news come full circle?


Today a new entity makes its debut in Chicago, The Printed Blog.

It’s an ambitious project mixing opinion and multimedia and some hyperlocal observations that would normally be solely online. But they are appearing in print, downloadable by pdf and set for distribution through several micro channels.
The debut is a little disappointing. Less news than opinion and diatribe, it appears slightly amateurish and not high qaulity journalism. But it is the first one and everyone can grow.
We are all tired of hearing about the demise of ink on paper. But if this experiment works, nothing speaks to the changes in the industry as clearly as this debut of a new model for journalism. It is the ultimate combination of professional and amateur journalism geared towards hyperlocal niche media.
Newspapers have been in decline for 20 years, and the slide continues. It is the Internet coming back to its print roots, completely reinvented. I am not convinced from this first issue that this is really solid journalism, as it is first-person musings and clever commentary. It is no Huffington Post, or politico.com. But it is a sign of rapid change and the evolutionary of media.
A 2008 survery of more than 700 newspaper editors shows that 2/3 of those editors believe the decline in readership among young people is the single greatest threat to the newspaper, according to the most recent edition of the Newspaper Research Journal.
Surprisingly, a study of 1,200 young adults in 2009 showed that 41 percent said in five years they would get their news from print newspapers, a 193 percent increase from their current reported habits. 71 percent said they will get their news from Internet sites. Ok, Ok, 28 percent said they get their news from Facebook right now.
Gannett newspapers launched “Assignment Zero” to completely reorganize and redfine its newsroom structures, relying on citizen journalism and” crowdsourcing.” At the same time, Steve Krug has been launching his theories of web usuability in a book called, “Don’t Make Me Think.” Because no one wants to when he or she is reading news content online. It is a passive endeavor.
The Christian Science Monitor will be only online as of April. In the current issue of Nieman Reports from Harvard, Edward Roussel wrote, “Newspaper still tend to define themselves by their paper rather than their news.” As I wrote in my most recent book, “Everyman News: The Changing American Front Page,” the content is the commodity, not the delivery mode.
The Chicago Tribune has filed for bankruptcy, Chapter 11. And it is undergoing so many changes, it reminds me of me right before I have to attend a black-tie dinner. I try everything on in the closet, and then I go with whatever I can wear that has matching shoes. The Tribune is trying a tabloid format, visually explosive front pages, the hyperlocal news, the oversized thumbnail photos of columnists, all of it, any of it.
But I do think I know some of the answers. I do think journalists should do what they do best. Hard, investigative, thorough reporting.
People want hyperlocal news, OK, leave that to the bloggers and the great citizen journalism sites. Edit that with superb commentary, not venting. Vett the venting, cull the accurate information. Journalists are plugged in better than an intern who will be covering it for the first time. A part-time blogger who is paid little to nothing for his or her content just cannot have the resources, time, expertise or experience to uncover stories that matter to the democracy.
Journalists shoudl spend the time working on those big stories that matter to society. Put all the daily news online as a shared effort wiht citizen journalists and content providers. Thousands of people covering the inauguration and writing the news story about how many went, why and how much? Not necessary. Pool resources for that.
We need to discern the difference between showing images and writing text in real time of what is happening and developing thoughtful, insightful journalism that puts these evenst in context with balance and multidimensional reporting.
Save the great reporting for the segments of society throughout the world that are not covered. Work weeks and months on longer stories no one else knows about or has the resources to uncover. Post those online and in special editions. That is the future of professional journalism. Let the bloggers and the citizen jour nalist go to the city council meetings and have trained editors sift through the text.
We have every other niched and narrow editorial need we could possibly want a gazillion times over online from blogs to citizen journalism sites. For goodness sakes, we even have Pete’s Weather.

Pete\'s Weather

which covers the weather on one block in Chicago. One of my students found this working on a class assignment for me in one of the storefronts Medill has at Lawrence and Ashland avenues in Chicago for sophomore students in the 301 class.
Printed Blog? Pete’s Weather? Viable, sustainable ideas. But what will last for the long haul is great, solid, investigative and narrative journalism done by great reporters and writers who do this kind of necessary work full-time.


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