Headlines Remind Us Journalism is Redefining Itself
A few years back I was part of a focus group at a newspaper where I worked. Our task: create a plan that would enhance the paper's website with fresh content, while not cannibalizing the print edition of its articles.
That was a tall order, as we knew readers wouldn't return to a website two, three or four times a day to get their news if it wasn't up-to-date, yet they wouldn't buy the paper the next morning if it was full of articles they had read online the day prior when the news was breaking.
As ideas were tossed around the conversation moved toward the livelihood of print newspapers in general, until one dope (yes, it was me) suggested the company had to come to grips with settling on a date when the print product would go the way of the dinosaur and face extinction. That date would be determined when the online product could generate enough advertising revenue to support itself, and the print edition would suffer advertising and circulation revenue losses that would make it sensible to stop the presses - for good.
I still recall, like it was yesterday, the upheaval in the room as the words exited my mouth. A widely unpopular idea it was amongst my colleagues, one well-known and well-read columnist shot me a glance and wasn't shy about telling me I was out of my mind; her words as colorful and descriptive as her columns, without having been run through an editor's filter.
That was six years ago this month. And if memory serves me correctly, I predicted the paper had 10, perhaps 15 years at best before it had to make the decision to let its presses ink wells run dry.
So it's disheartening to see the bad news that continues to spill out of newsroom nationally and globally.
Witness recent headlines:
Just as technology and advances in the printing industry drove newspapers to becoming the preferred purveyor of our daily news, technology is also diminishing that entity, one printing press and reporter notebook at a time.
Today's newsrooms are understaffed, and its staff overworked. So if you're going to be one of the lucky few companies to get time with a reporter to discuss an issue, or add thought-leadership to a story he or she is writing, you'd better bring your A game to that conversation.
Reporters don't have the luxury of researching volumes upon volumes of materials. It's more like quickly Googling a search term and finding the most relevant statistic. Come prepared with information the reporter can use, make sure it's relevant to the topic of conversation, and make sure it's up-to-date. Presenting a reporter some fact from a report that was published eight years ago that states your case isn't going to help that reporter.
Reporters also don't have a lot of time on their calendar to speak with you. If you get 20 minutes of their time, consider yourself blessed. Come prepared with speaking points, and remember, because time is of the essence, less is more here.
Reporters aren't working on just one story, they've got multiple stories in the queue at the same time, and many are deadlining close to or on the same date. They may miss something, or need clarification. Before the interview ends, provide them with your cell phone number and email address and let them know you'er available at any time to discuss the topic further.
And, don't be disappointed if you don't see your name and comments in the paper the next morning. Chances are, they were posted online long before that paper was printed.