The Uncertain Future of News
I'm a senior and maybe that's why I prefer to lounge on my comfy couch to read the papers the old-fashioned way, instead of on-line, so that's what I do with the P.D., the News Herald, and four Geauga County weeklies.
About content: Because I listen to WCPN and NPR all day for the news, I usually only glance at the news articles in the papers. However I do read the editorial pages with columnists and letters to the editor, and the comics pages with Dear Abby, the doctor's column, and a few of my favorite comics. The Inside & Out section and the Pharmacy column are also usually very informative and enjoyable.
Rose, Geauga County
Let's not forget that while newspapers are one form of connection to our world and as such can be replaced by casual, perhaps unstudied reports such as blogs and emails, professional print media and serious reporting has been the fourth estate, balancing the powers of governments both legitimate and illegitimate throughout history. This cannot be forgotten! Abuses both large and small have been quenched through the fortunate convergance of newspapers just trying to 'make a buck' and an aroused public.
Print media is one of the few places where people are hired to uncover and research a story, create an article distilling their findings, and are paid on the quality of their reportage. Their articles are subject to editoral scrutiny by a person whose living depends on management's and ultimately the public's collective acceptance of the veracity of the article. Professionalism develops from having to do this again and again, until a skill in reporting emerges.
On the other hand, Blogs are casual and are published without editoral scrutiny.
While there is bias in print media, as there is in any human endeavor, this bias has traditionally been balanced by the number of professional offerings available to the public. Only print allows a reader an opportunity to gather and compare facts side by side. We each have a variety of news sources to help us form an opinion, and our collective opinion forges societal action.
After listening to a few of your callers, I am fearful for the future of newsprint media in Cleveland, but not worldwide. That is purely a quality of writing element. The Plain Dealer having no competition has become lax and ineffective. Just like a previous caller said, a great feeling passes over you reading a column by a world-class journalist like Tom Friedman, or William Kristol. I am 25 and relish the time I spend each day reading the New York Times.
Of course there is going to be a bias in news. Unlike your last caller I know that EVERY news source is biased. Whether left, or right bias is ubiquitous. It is your job to sift through the fire and brimstone of conservative writers, and the sunshine and roses of the liberals. What comes of that is the reason for newspapers-to spark thought, conversation and to inform.
Rick, Middleburg Heights
I have just finished listening to the 9 a.m. Sound of Ideas show on the future of newspapers. I am a retired deputy exec editor of the Providence, R.I. Journal and know something about the subject, having written and spoken about it myself fairly often. I thought your show was the absolute best discussion of the subject that I have heard either on the air or in print. It went far beyond the usual superficial talking heads and it went quite deeply into the real issues. Thank you.
I understand that the primary basis for the newspapers' financial troubles in declining advertising revenues from their print editions, and the relatively small size of their corresponding online ad revenues. But, I think that most newspapers have not done of good job of maximizing their potential online revenues, and our two large local newspapers, the Plain Dealer and the Beacon Journal, are prime examples of the biggest mistakes that newspapers have made in the online world.
Their biggest mistake is not taking capitalizing on the one advantage that established print publications have over online-only news outlets, and that is local name recognition. The Plain Dealer goes by "cleveland.com", and then they have to go to great lengths to make sure that people know that the two entities are one and the same. The same argument goes for the Beacon Journal and their "ohio.com" online presence.
The second big mistake they make is not tight enough integration between the print and online editions. I'm sure that the reason they don't duplicate their full print content in the online edition is to encourage people to read the print edition. But today's digital-savvy consumers, especially the younger generation who make up the newspapers' potential future audience, are used to a "try before you buy" atmosphere. The papers need to inspire confidence in their skills in both the online world and print world, and that is how they'll help convert online readers into print readers.
I can't tell you how many times I've been involved in some news-worthy event, and the next day a friend will mention to me that it was covered in the newspaper. So, I'll go to the newspaper's web site, and try to search for the coverage using some very basic search terms.
Most of the time, the article is not available on the web site at all, or if it is, their search technology makes it very difficult to find the article. It is these frustrating experiences that don't inspire my confidence in the newspaper's professional skills, nor inspire me to want to read the print edition more often.
Thank you Ted Gup! It took the entire show to get to the most salient point - Right on - opinions are like hot air - cheap and quickly vaporize - facts cost time and therefore money.
The news industry has done itself and the public a disservice by not helping discern 'editorial commentary' from 'factual journalists' for dumb Americans who don't know the difference - and our prestigious Journalism 'schools' of higher education need to implement a certification process just as CPAs and Lawyers have - so the public can know immediately who is a Journalist and who is occupying the airwaves with nothing but personal opinion and hot air...something I can and do get at frequent social gatherings.
I think the Daily Show has a segment called 'who the F(&& is that guy' that succinctly describes what is mostly on news shows that also applies to blogs. It is absolutely tiring and mind numbing.
I'll end by saying that a new economic model needs to happen for newspapers - and it won't be a single idea that saves the industry - but a coop of ideas - e.g., less printings per week (Sun, Mon, Wed and Friday only), combining local and national news in the same front page - less sections, AND for gawd's sake our elder population is still reading - give them a Social Security like payment rate for your newspaper so you can get your readership up, target older American's purchasing powers and play up to their interests....many of them over 65 don't use a computer and don't want to learn.
Your panelist made the suggestion that an area where Cleveland's
newspaper(s) could cut back is in the area of Art criticism. The suggestion was made that our regional papers should focus on the topics of medicine and health care as subjects that are important to our city and save money by combining the positions of art critics. In fact it is the arts that originally gave Cleveland its national prominence. In spite of Cleveland's decline in the arena of manufacturing, Cleveland still retains one of the top three orchestras in the world and one of the top three art museums nationally.
University Circle, home to both of these institutions, is unique in the country and seminal in the world for the proximity of fine cultural institutions, a university, conservitories of music and art, and yes, two fine hospitals.
In Cleveland we already seem to have a porblem with valuing our regional artists unless they have gone to NYC and made it big. Our newspapers are in a unique position to take the lead by providing thoughtful and comprehensive criticism of area art exhibitions, dance performances, concerts and theatrical presentations. It is naive to assume that one individual has the background and knowledge to cover all of these areas. Pride in the arts is not only good for civic pride it can also be a financial boost to a city in need of rejuvenation like Cleveland.
Robin, Cleveland Heights
Your caller made a good point about the liberal bias of the editors in the print news.
The recent Pew study made clear how biased mainstream news sources were in covering the election.
That kind of bias leads readers to question the integrity of coverage of all issues, local, national, or international.
Who wants to pay for what ends up as simply political marketing?
Should news organizations consider switching from a for-profit to a non-profit model? Would some be more stable right now if not for the imperative to turn a profit? NPR, the BBC, and many universities do not make profits but doggedly pursue the Truth.
There are many factors to the decline of the newspapers (and electronic media) and part of the problem is that most papers today do not keep their viewpoints relegated to the editorial pages. The New York Times, for instance, is not the Times of 30 years ago, they have a definite left-wing bent and let it determine their news coverage. Most of their columnists are left-wing and they do not have the balance they once had.
This is not the only paper that has taken this route and it is hurting their bottom line.
Basically what it boils down to is a bloated system... until the newspapers adopt new technologies like kindle editions of their paper, and snagging cheap talent, such as local bloggers, they will continue to flounder.
David Folkenflick National Public Radio
Lauren Rich Fine ContentNext, Kent State University
Ted Gup Case Western Reserve University