Tag Archives: newspapers

Why newspapers….?

While the spoken word can travel faster, you can’t take it home in your hand. Only the written word can be absorbed wholly at the convenience of the reader ~ Kingman Brewster Jr

The newspaper fits the reader’s program while the listener must fit the broadcaster’s program. ~ Kingman Brewster Jr.

These two quotes by Kingman Brewster, one-time President of Yale University, are so on target for National Newspaper Week that I couldn’t choose…  In both quotes focus is on the reader, the active participant in the communication chain that links source (in whatever format) with receiver (of whatever stripe.)

As for the first, some would argue that you can take the word home in your hand – assuming that you are I-phone equipped. Brewster assumes, though, that there’s more than convenience at stake, that the reason to tote, and eventually to read, the paper is that “only the written word can be absorbed wholly at the convenience of the reader.”  Tuning in or clicking on  are not synonymous with reading and reflecting on the written word.

To this I would add that newspapers give the reader credit for the capacity to think critically.  Though newspaper editors and print journalists are not hesitant to speak their own minds, they respect the fact that the reader has the wits to think about what they are reading. Editors even encourage readers to check the facts, to re-read an article, to reflect and respond.

In the “information age” everyone aspires to be the sender/source of information that’s “hot” or intended to persuade more than inform.  Newspapers — and serious readers — are challenged to focus on the process of gathering and sharing news and opinion.  Readers need to recognize and value the labor involved in truth-finding, in gathering and parsing diverse opinions, in communicating complex ideas to a diverse readership.  Readers need to recognize and value the unique “personality” that characterizes the publication itself.

Newspaper folks are not judged by their charming good looks, their wardrobe, their glib tongue or their star quality.  They earn their journalistic stripes by delving beneath the surface.  They invest the time to check the facts, to track down the dissenting opinion, to respect the fact that We the People make decisions based on the words they craft and the cartoons they draw. Newspapers pride themselves on the fact that the news is edited by rational, if opinionated, individuals.  Their responsibility is to inform an electorate that, if all goes well, retains the power to decide the fate of the democracy envisioned by those who crafted the First Amendment and assigned it to its prominent position in the Bill of Rights.

Above all, as the nation falls victim to weaponized information, newspapers have both the burden and the power to create a climate in which words matter and truth triumphs. The free press we honor during National Newspaper Week is the voice and the prevailing hope of a free nation.

National Newspaper Week – October 1-7, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

It’s National Newspaper Week — Read On!

Half of the American people never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President  One hopes it is the same half. Gore Vidal

 If you’re a tweeter, texter, app-addicted news junkie you may be blissfully unaware that this very week, October 5-11, 2014, is the 74th Annual National Newspaper Week.   Moreover Tuesday, October 7, is the first ever National News Engagement Day.

 Clearly the two commemorations relate and promote a common message. Still, they differ in focus. National Newspaper Week celebrates the nation’s democratic tradition of a free press that doesn’t just report the news but that holds both the nation’s leaders and the newspaper’s readers accountable for a robust democracy. The day of engagement, sponsored by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, focuses on promoting Americans’ engagement with the news as a national priority.

So where do newspapers fit in and why do we need a week, or even a day, to stem the rising tide of disengagement.   Robert Williams, President of the National Newspaper Association, observes that “newspapers sound the alarm with swift, accurate and thorough coverage when sensitive issues arise. We provide not just facts but clearly labeled editorials to help everyone weigh matters with sufficient information. We pay attention. We laugh. We cry. We hurt. We rejoice. We care. We share the pain and shed tears along with our readers. That is what well-run newspapers do.”

To be sure legacy newspapers – the ones that used to roll off the presses – are in distress.   Competition from formats that require less cost to produce and less time to “consume”, coupled with dramatic loss of advertising income have led to massive layoffs of investigative reporters, shifts in ownership, and plummeting reader confidence. The most recent Pew Research Center biennial news consumption survey identified 29% of young adults as “newsless”…..which ironically does rhyme with “clueless”.

What’s more, a recent Gallup poll reveals that Americans’ confidence in news media is at a record low. Far more troubling is a study conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. More troubling by far, the same study found that more than one-third of Americans are opposed to freedom of the press when it comes to stories concerning national security.

One appropriate way to observe Newspaper Week is to reflect on the role and tradition of this nation’s free press. What immediately comes to mind is the diversity. Just as the communities they reflect and inform are unique, each newspaper has its own special character, each news person reflects his or her own take on the task.

Consider the unique role of rural press: A recent study of rural Oklahomans 42.2% of respondents turned to their local newspaper as their primary source of information. Researchers concluded that “even in this age of endless Facebook feeds and dizzying arrays of other social media options, the good ol’ newspaper still has a beloved place in many rural residents’ hearts.”   One might suggest that the newspaper retains a beloved place in rural residents’ minds, as well — recent political decisions by Minnesota’s rural voters were no doubt influenced by the editorial positions of this state’s strong rural press.

Community presses also play a unique role as community builders, helping to define a community and carve out a market in mobile world in which geography is not the determinant of community. Keith Anderson, director of news at ECM Publishers in Coon Rapids, MN, looks at community newspapers with a his own lens: “Community journalism isn’t about paper and ink or websites and unique visitors….Community journalism is a living, breathing, shared connection of people that propels us to take chances, to realize that life is not always safe, clean and tidy, but that, through our connection, there is plenty to celebrate and adventures to explore.”

In the digital age we tend to forget the person who hatched the idea, ferreted out the facts, selected the words to tell the story – and fit the available column space. American Newspaper Association President Williams gives pause for thought when he observes that “newspapering is a job in the same sense that being a father or mother is a ‘job.’ Parents are responsible for the well-being of their family. Good newspapers take on that role with the communities we serve.”

Finally, lest you think that National Newspaper Week and National News Engagement Day are pedantic, even quaint, occasions of note, check out the lighter touch offered by the Poynter Institute: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/272995/happy-newspaper-week-pssst-its-not-just-about-newspapers/

The fun facts and stories there will remind you just how human – and humorous – the newspaper industry is.

 

 

 

Patch on the Move

Sooner rather than later AOL’s Patch is making mighty leaps in this direction.  Just as the company is launching its 100th site, Patch, the hyper-local web-based news machine, will start showing up in an additional 500 communities this year.  AOL’s strategy is to restructure as a destination for a range of hyper-local content.

Reuters reports that Jon Brod, executive VP for AOL Local and a Patch founder, anticipates that, as legacy media falters there is chasm of quality information at the community level.  According to ReutersPatch is just one part of AOL’s content offering, which also includes Seed, a platform that relies on user-generated material on popular topics, and several popular topic-specific sites like Engadget, which is dedicated to consumer electronics and tech gadgets.”

As noted in a previous blog, keep an eye on Patch – and its siblings — no doubt coming soon to your community, especially if you live in an upper-income burb.

My earlier Patch post

PatchWatch

This post picks up about where the post re. content mills left off.  Though content production and manipulation is a fast-moving field in which I would not pretend to keep up I do like to drop in at times to see what’s happening and what’s about to happen in this community.  For that reason I’ve been tracking insofar as possible the inexorable march of AOL’s Patch.  As Patch marches from East to West and West to East I’m pretty sure the Twin Cities area, particularly the affluent suburbs, is on their pin map.

Librarian that I am in my DNA I’m done some research and will send readers to the primary sources.  Still, there are some universal basics I can synthesize from a number of references. To wit:

  • The current category under which Patch more or less fits is “hyperlocal”.  The target is a community under 50,000.  More specifically the prime target is a wealthy suburban community that has a lot of interest in knowing more about what’s happening in their hometown, i.e. the center of the known world.   ( AOL hits the big cities with Going.com.)
  • Patch is extraordinarily aggressive in its hiring, marketing, advertising, and promotion.
  • AOL is pouring buckets of money into Patch ($50 million through the end of 2010).
  • Much of that lucre goes to snatching up local journalists, including the employed and the unemployed, who work long hours multitasking, managing responsibilities traditionally the province of a large and diverse staff.
  • Patch employees including local editors, salespeople, advertising directors and reporters work in the trenches, i.e. from home.
  • Reporters view themselves as more – or other – than reporters, more as community organizers.
  • Social media are used rather sparingly in Patch’s strategies.
  • Feedback on hyperlocal initiatives and the advance of Patch is at a premium since neither revenue nor traffic data are provided.
  • The battle between hyperlocal Patch and the foray of legacy media into local reporting is inevitable and proximate.

As far as I can see it’s the folks in media/journalism who are sharing their thoughts about Patch and other hyperlocal initiatives at this point.  Many describe their local experiences and their expectations re. the future of Patch.  Still, the impact of initiatives such as Patch reaches far beyond the work of a small cadre of energetic journalists in any one community.  The time for a community to think about the implications is before the advance team comes to town.

Some links to others’ observations about hyperlocal media in general, Patch in particular:

Andria Krewson, AOL Patch and MainStreetConnect Expand Hyper-Local News, July 2010.

Sarah Studley, One Patch at a Time:  How AOL Plans to Rescue Local News, March 2010

Hard Times Working the Patch, August 2010, posted by Dan Kennedy
I added more content on this subject here on 8-19-2010.