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Lose the News – Keep the Paper…

June 3, 2016

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

daily Recently I tweeted that the words news and paper together are an oxymoron; you can’t chase news on paper anymore, it just isn’t possible in today’s digital age. Some of my friends in the newspaper industry were not happy with my tweeted description and thought that I went a bit overboard in criticizing the newspaper. With that in mind, let me tell you what I really think about newspapers and their printed future.

I am a firm believer that today more than ever we need papers; printed papers; we need them to read like weeklies on a daily basis, unless their frequency is already weekly, and then we need to call them by that moniker. I refuse to call them “news” papers because I really believe that the word newspaper is an oxymoron. In today’s world, there is no way that you can have news, actual breaking news, on paper. But does that mean that we have no need for papers anymore? No need for that printed product that comes curated, edited, well-thought-out, designed, and arrives on my doorstep or in my mailbox on a regular basis? We absolutely do need that product and I’ll tell you why.

People may say that it’s a matter of semantics, but for the sake of the digital natives who have grown up getting all of their news from their smartphones or their tablets; we owe it to them as journalists to go beyond the soundbites. We owe it to them to go beyond the news and to try and curate and present the necessary information that will have an impact on their daily life.

I wasted three hours watching a cable channel’s breaking news (by the way have you noticed that all news on television is breaking news), and I use the term loosely, on what happened recently at UCLA. At the end of the extensive coverage, I still had no idea what was really happening or even what really had transpired other than a murder-suicide. There were plenty of images and plenty of police and even more of “we have no idea what is going on, but will continue our live coverage.”

While yes, it was a tragedy and two people were dead, was that journalism at its best? What image of journalism are those cable channels promoting or teaching our audience about the value and necessity of journalism. 24-hour news is the biggest disservice to news ever invented. We don’t have more news, but everything now is breaking news. Go figure.

Every time I sit down and watch TV I’m reminded of that necessity for true and good journalism and papers. The necessity of somebody who takes the time to digest, analyze and think of that content before spewing it out there. Our future isn’t to be automated bits and pieces such as you find on television and smartphones. We have to start treating journalism as a serious matter. We have to start treating journalism as an issue that begins with proper education as to what journalism really is and how true journalism can touch lives and impact people. Someone may not know that they need to read about a certain story, but those surprises that journalists bring can be exciting and very impactful and in-your-face. Journalism is important.

weekly Journalism, especially in print, must be much more than mere soundbites or those lazy days of summer where the story goes on and on indefinitely, only at the end of the day to discover there is no real story with definitive facts.

For people who doubt that there is a future for the daily paper, they need to think again, because there is nothing like a good paper, one that provides you with all of the needed, wanted, and desired information that a well-curated paper can deliver to you.

Digital natives have grown up getting their news from smartphones or tablets. Digital immigrants have joined the natives in getting their news from smartphones or 24-hour cable channels. This is a given. However, both are also not oblivious to the printed word either. Certainly, most are capable of appreciating a reputable source when they see one. We owe it to our audience as journalists to open their minds and show them what true journalism is. We do that by going beyond what they’re used to receiving from the bits and pieces that materialize on their phones. If they’ve never had it, they don’t know what they’re missing. And for those who had it, they know that they don’t want yesterday’s news in today’s paper. Both have heard the news already. So, it’s up to us to show them.

And that’s why papers are still so very important and also why I’m advocating for the removal of the word news from newspaper. We must start referring to our publications as daily or weekly papers, because it’s not the “news” that defines our paper, it’s the content and the information within. By the time papers get the story to print, the world has known about it for hours if not days. Therefore the term “no news is good news” makes even more sense.

I believe for any paper to succeed today it must have: (1) In depth, investigative reporting; (2) It must have in depth interviews that avoid the soundbites such as the type we see on television, but instead, go behind-the-scenes and explain to people what’s really going on. Who is the real person and what are they doing or thinking and how does that impact our lives?

(3) There must also be great photography. Nothing replaces a picture in print, even if the quality of the paper isn’t the best; people love to see images, their own and others, in the paper. Unless of course, they’re on the country’s most wanted list, then they might defer.

A good paper is one that realizes the reader knows what happened yesterday; knows what happened thirty minutes ago, but they don’t know how it may impact their lives or their family’s lives or their futures. That’s what a good paper does on a daily or a weekly basis. It bridges the gap between yesterday and tomorrow with in depth information that has impact. Call it the 48 hours bridge for the daily and the seven days bridge for the weekly.

So, before you give up on papers in general, pardon me while I give up on news on paper instead. And join me in redefining papers as daily or weekly entities. It’s not too late, but by the same token, we can’t wait one more hour to transform them into what they need to be in order to not only survive, but thrive.

No one waits on the paper for news anymore. Let’s accept that as fact. The minute the powers-that-be at papers start thinking differently and redefining what papers are is the moment that they’ll suddenly see the paper in a whole new light. Then the stratosphere is the limit when it comes to engagement with your audience.

So, do me a favor today; stop thinking about your product as a “news” paper and just think about it as a daily or weekly entity. Then your entire concept of what needs to be in that paper is going to change.

Until next time…

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3 comments

  1. Good column and good point. However, newspapers have not been for a long time about “news.” I remember reading Roger Kahn’s “Boys of Summer” in early 70’s. Veteran sportswriter Dick Young tells young Kahn that the fan already knows who won the game. They want to know why.


  2. everything in print will die…
    even money.



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