Dos and Dont’s of newspapering

The Independent asked a bunch of media machers about the future of newspapers and not much came out of it but these rather opposing viewpoints:

Gets it: Piers Morgan, former editor of the Daily Mirror and reality-TV star:

Every newspaper has a great future online. End of story. Within five years every newspaper will be free and they’ll all be online. And if they’re not, they should be. There will still be a presence in print but that will be for older readers and you will find that anybody under the age of 35 will only read newspapers online. It will be the newspapers who are the most dynamic online who win. Any newspaper editor or proprietor who believes they will escape this inevitable translation from newsprint to online will get buried. They are under a massive misapprehension. If newspapers do it right and invest now they will be successful and make lots of money. It’s not the death of the paper. It’s the morphing of the paper from a print version to online.

Doesn’t: John Humphrys, anchor of the Today show:

And sooner or later we will explode the blog myth. The idea that you can click on to a few dozen blogs and find out what’s going on in the world is nonsense. It’s fun but that’s all it is. …

But we’ve already exploded the myth of radio presenters’ wisdom.

  • Slight correction: Today is a radio programme.

  • Well Humphrys, you could read a dozen newspapers cover to cover and there is no way you’ll know what is going on in the world.

    “Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.”

  • You don’t even need to click a few dozen blogs. A single look at a blog aggregator or a memetracker is more informative than a single look at the front page of a newspaper or a paper’s web site.

    Take a look at or The only thing the papers have over them is local news.

    (I’m an unpaid advisor to Tailrank.)

  • Gregory J. Amani Smith

    I agree that newspaper have to adapt. I work at one now and I see the everyday struggles as these institution grapple with this issue. Newspapers still are local and they must project that value. Not many blogs report on just what is happening in the small town or next county over. With world news, it obvious that technology is changing the face of news delivery. But it is amazing how much blogs get news from the very institutions it is destroying. I believe the infrastructure of news gathering that newspapers and TV have built are still being used by the blogosphere. The very real question on maintaining this infrastructure is the heart of the problem, since it cost real big dollars. The success media organization will delivery news in many channels and utilize and streamline the infrastructure. The Washington Post is one of the leaders in this with Plus Google is now trying a system of print advertising because there is still value in it. The last sacred cow of newspapers is the cadre of reporters. Reporters don’t like to here it only takes 1 report when they think it takes 3.

  • Martin: There is no slight correction. Thanks much. Fixed.

  • Gregory,

    The reality is the newspapers don’t even report relevant local news unless it fits their ideological template.

    Just about every town and city in this country has their own ticking entitlement bombs. Too many municipal janitors and librarians have pension and lifetime healthcare promises which effectively render our local governments bankrupt.

    We would never have this or career politicians if “local” events were covered honestly.

    Here’s another example. People wonder how in the heck Massachusetts keeps electing the same disgusting politicians for decades. Well, open the LOCAL papers, their news stories sound like press releases for Mssrs. Kennedy, Kerry, Frank, etc.

    I had a fiery email exchange with a local writer who took great umbrage when I accused him of being a flack for Ted Kennedy. He insisted that he flacked for no one and how dare I question his objectivity.

    Two months later the allegations (and evidence) about Teddy collaborating with the Soviets during the Cold War surfaced. I emailed the “flack for no one” and asked if they were going to report and/or look into it.

    He laughed in my face.

    Newspapers are thoughly incapable of “adapting”.

  • Anna Haynes

    > “The idea that you can click on to a few dozen blogs and find out what’s going on in the world is nonsense.

    what’s amusing is the plethora of doubt-and-evidence-free assertions of this ilk coming from the world of ocean-liner journalism. Said plethora does kind of support the “media as influence-mongering” hypothesis over the “media as informing” one.

    We _really_ need to have a competition to address this “dumb info source” assertion, ala “Hedgehogs and foxes” Tetlock. Enlist as our subjects blog readers right left and center, newspaper readers, talk radio listeners, fox watchers, etc. Control for level of education and amt of time spent ingesting; compare and contrast the “ingesters” level of accuracy with respect to a) current and past events; b) predictions as to future events.

    (is this a project for NewAssignment.Net?)

  • Gregory J. Amani Smith

    Mr. Nut,

    Any successful business is adaptable if it is open to bright and new ideas.

    What local news is important to people varies. Here in Austin Texas, people in the local counties are currently concerned with new local toll roads and the effect on the central texas corridor. I have only been living down here for 6 years. When I lived in New York before I move here, I could care less about local Texas issues. Also, high school football is huge here and a lot of people love the local coverage (I will never get that). There are dozens of stories that local citizens in Austin care about that aren’t relevant to San Antonio (only about 80 miles away).

    Besides somehow old cold war news about Senators, in my humble opinion, may not strike the everyday person as “relevant”. Plus not every municipality has short comings in benefits for longterm state employees. I digress…

    The point I am making is that there is a need for local papers and international news. The key to survival is going to be delivering both in the method the consumers want and advertisers want. That is the trick. Old media is playing catch-up and trying to predict where the wind blows. That is a hard trick.

    The Austin American-Statesman ( does have bloggers on the payroll and citizen bloggers.

  • Gregory J. Amani Smith

    Plus the big buggaboo we need to talk about is the access to online and highspeed internet.

    Not all communities is on the edge of technology. I am rare black american male. I have never been arrested and I have a BBA in Accounting and I’m finishing my BA in Economics and MBA in Finance. I say that because it is statistically true, not to pat myself on the back. I have the advantage of forward thinking parents to guide me, something everyone might not have. I have people in my family that still don’t have computers and some still on dial-up. Sometimes I find online pundits forgetting about the technology gap divides people.

  • Vulgorilla

    “The idea that you can click on to a few dozen blogs and find out what’s going on in the world is nonsense.”

    Actually, that statement is pure nonsense! Clicking on a few dozen blogs is about the only way to find out what’s going on in the world. Why would I want to wade through reams of propaganda with parts of it intentionally fabricated and/or parts intentionally omitted to align to some hidden political agenda? And just because a newspaper decides to go on-line with the same tired propaganda doesn’t mean that they will get read with any more frequency than they are now. If that’s what the future is then I will ignore them just as easily as I ignore their dead tree versions today. I learned several years ago that the Internet was the only place I could go to find out what was happening, and if I had any questions I could do the research myself at that instant. You can’t do that with something whose main value is to wrap fish in.

  • penny

    Vulgorilla, well put, and, let’s not forget that a blog, such as Jeff’s here, has a comment link, that wonderful democratic instant ability to respond, refute and communally interact without censorship.

    Gregory, I agree with you that local news and lack of high speed internet connectivity keeps the local paper alive and necessary. But, even that is in peril with classified ad revenues drying up due to Craiglist, Monster, ebay, now even Yahoo is ramping up to do real estate ads, I think I read(?).

    I just don’t see the generation that’s in grade school now wanting dead wood journalism as they come of age.

  • Jim Karna

    “Clicking on a few dozen blogs is about the only way to find out what’s going on in the world. Why would I want to wade through reams of propaganda with parts of it intentionally fabricated and/or parts intentionally omitted to align to some hidden political agenda?”

    But why assume that in clicking on a few dozen blogs you’re not going to get reams of propaganda with parts intentionally fabricated and/or part intentionally omitted? While a blogger may not be under the editorial control of a private company with a more or less open agenda why assume that online journalists can step out of their context and write the truth? Surely without some semblance of editorship a blog can become even more of a hot bed of propaganda and fabrication?

    It shouldn’t be/ isn’t a them or us, a print or digital. And, as it’s pointed out in the Inde piece the circulation of the qualities remains pretty much the same in the UK as it did 10 years ago, in the rush for the brave new world i think it’s important that baby isn’t thrown away with the bath water

  • Just about every news story I’ve ever read about people or events of which I had personal knowledge contained one or more factual errors. This alone undermines Snow’s belief that the newspapers are the source of accurate information and bloggers are just fooling around.

  • Stephennnn

    Time and time again newspapers did not do a suffient amount of research before printing a story, or left out important imformation which proved to be substantive enough to change the basis of the conclusion, and in effect showing their bias. Time and time again such articles have been scrutinized by both left and right bloggers who have provided valuable insights or facts which would have never had an impact in the old system of paper, ink and corrections some days later. The future of the online newspaper is secure, as is the role of the blogger, or in whatever form the input of the interested reader may take. The point is that there are hundreds of thousands of sources of relevant information out there that will, time and time again, prove that the original story was lacking in some important way. There are too many examples to prove my case, beginning with Bush’s Guard duty (on the right) to the repeated mischaracterizations and out right lies of the Bush Administration (for those on the left) . Like it or the online publication has helped to create a healthy democratic dialogue and I shudder to thing where we would be without the internet and access to the foreign press during the runnup, invasion and occupation of Iraq.

  • Peter Hodder-Williams

    Douglas Adams on John Humphrys in 1999:

    “Then there’s the peculiar way in which certain BBC presenters and journalists (yes, Humphrys Snr., I’m looking at you) pronounce internet addresses. It goes ‘www DOT … bbc DOT… co DOT… uk SLASH… today SLASH…’ etc., and carries the implication that they have no idea what any of this new-fangled stuff is about, but that you lot out there will probably know what it means.”

    Looks like 7 years hasn’t been enough for Mr Humphrys. But after 7 years isn’t something “old-fangled”?

    From a wonderful article called “How to stop worrying and learn to love the internet” available here:

  • I just wanted to let you know that Aljazeera English has launched with a new website.

    Digg it, link to it and spread the word.

    First few minutes of the Aljazeera’s broardcast:

  • I’m an old guy, so I can’t imagine giving up a newspaper, at least until someone develops a laptop that will fits well in the potty. But online is also here to stay simply because of the ease of linking to other relevant stories or topics. I think the big newspaper chains understand that. Some are working more dilgently at online content than others because we all tell them we want to choose our news our way.

    But something I still don’t think has made the leap online – despite my love of blogs too – is the inability of many online publications to tie delivery of content to delivery of new ideas all in the same place.

    I read the Wall Street Journal everyday simply because I enjoy the writing and that particular perspective on business. But I also pick it up each day because as a small business owner, I hope I’ll find my eyes flashing around the page after I read a story just for some idea browsing.

    Occassionally, I’ll find something I grab only because of its location on the same page and the headline, stories I might never have read if they were not placed close to the piece I did come for. Much of it is certainly just a random pick then.

    I read one today about college costs, the other day it was about entrpreneures in Idaho. They turned out to have meaning for me but are stories I would have missed had I set my RSS feed to simply topics I’m interested in today.

    How will a blog, or even an online newspaper, make that same potential depth of idea leap for me? Online newspapers, especially, are built with inexpensive four-color ads scattered everywhere around the page. These make my eyes want to wander less around the page not more.

    That means we’re going to miss more and more little story gems in the future. In fact, it’s happening right now.

  • Guy Love

    Jim Karna states a very good observation,

    But why assume that in clicking on a few dozen blogs you’re not going to get reams of propaganda with parts intentionally fabricated and/or part intentionally omitted?

    What seems to escape the corporate media types is that they appear to the outside news consumer as basically one large, monolithic, consistent, repetitive, group voice. If you flip between newspapers, if you flip between channels, you basically get the same homogenized information. Even with readership and viewership dissipating, they seem helpless to stop themselves from changing their old habits of lecturing to the news consumer vs. informing the news consumer.

    Unfortunately for them the news consumer has moved on and seems to be pretty excited by the endless supply of blogs. These blogs are usually very opinionated, very diverse, somewhat biased, and somewhat informative. The news consumer wants to see the issues from all angles, read the real-time feedback of posts from other news consumers, see how the issues evolve in different communities, and then make up their own mind on what they perceive is the truth of the matter. Quite liberating if your the news consumer, quite disturbing if you used to hold a monopoly on information but are now just one of the voices in the choir.

    This dynamic is here to stay, today’s news consumer is intelligent enough to synthesize and filter information. Until corporate media overcomes it’s industrial age thinking, it will continue to fail in the information age. I personally think they will slowly vanish never fully understanding how or why they failed.

  • penny

    Until corporate media overcomes it’s industrial age thinking, it will continue to fail in the information age……add MSM arrogance, agenda driven biases, self-censoring brain numbing political correctness, carelessness, shallowness….I could go on. Corporate media like other sectors killed by the internet is dying fast. We’ve always been smarter than the MSM thinks we are. Payback can be a bitch.

    When was the last time anyone called a travel agent or a stock broker to place a trade? Gone. Dinosaurs. What’s laughable is that both industries pre-internet, like journalists, thought their agents were indispensible. They aren’t.

  • J.R.N.

    Newspapers are going to continue to decline unless they find a solution. The internet is here to stay as the driving force for information. The only solution for newspapers is to find a way to compete online. By investing in a solution now it is possible for them to avoid extinction. A good solution for them to try is offered by MyAdSource. It is a joint venture that provides social networking and e-commerce tools for publishers. The products they offer are up to the new web 2.0 standards. With a solution like this, newspapers could change into a social site that people enjoy while still providing information. Its up to the newspapers to make a change or face extiction as fewer people read the print versions of their papers.

  • I couldn’t understand some parts of this article s of newspapering, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.