“Reinvent or die. It’s that simple,” is advice offered to newspapers by Tim Porter, an editor and writer with newspapers and now a news media consultant. “And the death will be slow and painful, a continuing slide into mediocrity and irrelevance, as tighter budgets reduce staff and the public opts for newer, more compelling sources of information.” Porter argues that “local journalism,” done in new ways that he describes, will be the difference in whether daily newspapers survive. Clark G. Gilbert, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, and Scott D. Anthony, a managing director at Innosight LLC, explain the transformative impact of “disruptive change” on the newspaper industry and describe how mistakes made by other industries that have confronted such change can be instructive. ” … following these tips, newspaper companies have a chance to successfully navigate through increasingly turbulent times,” they write.

With Knight Ridder, the nation’s second biggest newspaper company, “headed for sale, dismemberment or reorganization because its three largest shareholders were not satisfied with the measly 19.4 percent in operating profit in 2004,” James Naughton, formerly an editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer and president of The Poynter Institute, presents the case for why it is essential that journalists serve on the corporate boards of newspaper companies. In the two and a half years since Amanda Bennett became editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, a Knight Ridder paper, budget cuts have reduced the newsroom staff by nearly 21 percent. “In downsizing, we are forced to think hard about the basic question of what exactly journalism is,” writes Bennett, who goes on to describe some new ways of approaching their mission “that necessity is forcing us to examine.”

At the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the paper’s routine redesign collided with major changes in readership habits and interests. This led to “a sweeping project taking on some of the most difficult questions confronting newspapers,” write Star Tribune editor Anders Gyllenhaal and Monica Moses, deputy managing editor and the chief architect of the redesign, who explain the changes made to their paper and the lessons learned in the process. Despite experiencing moments of great concern about the future of newspapers, his recent experiences in merging his newspaper’s print and online content have convinced Michael Riley, editor of The Roanoke (Va.) Times, that “Newspapers — or, more precisely, newsgathering operations — are in a position of strength.” He shares “an up-close look at what’s happened at our midsized newspaper to enable us to join the digital dance.” After 26 years working as a newspaper reporter, Carol Bradley has seen plenty of mistakes made when newsroom cutbacks happen and points to 10 of the more common errors that she hopes editors will avoid making. Joe Zelnik, editor of the Cape May (N.J.) County Herald, a weekly community newspaper, reports that “Nothing is shrinking at the Herald, which is doing more with more,” and he explains why his local paper is thriving at a time when many bigger daily newspapers are struggling.

Melvin Mencher, professor emeritus at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, notices changes in what is taught to journalism students and in news habits of the young and contends that “The question no longer is whether the newspaper will endure but whether the kind of news that is essential to a functioning democracy will survive.” Peg Finucane, an assistant professor of journalism and media studies at Hofstra University’s School of Communication, describes the training of journalists for a rapidly changing workplace. “There is no blueprint for this effort, and many newspapers cannot define what they want our journalism graduates to know or do,” she writes. Joel Kaplan, an associate dean at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, sees the ripple effect from newsroom cutbacks as students move away from journalism toward public relations, advertising and film, and he worries that “journalism appears to be losing some committed students who were on the verge of entering its workforce.” At Yale, Stanley Flink, a lecturer in political science, challenged his students to propose ways to buttress the vital journalistic work of newsrooms. He describes the various stages of their thinking and the proposal they arrived at.

Most popular articles from Nieman Reports

Show comments / Leave a comment