"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Pixels of thoughts about newspapers

It's both an exciting and unsettling time to be a newspaper journalist because of such rapid technological changes. Newspapers have  always been a children of technology, but change has never been so rapid and accelerating.
I don't agree with the shortsighted and myopic  naysayers that claim newspapers are dying. They are changing in many ways, and will continue to do so. You simply can't turn around these days without seeing news items about it. Today for instance, the New York Times is in the news for early buyouts of 30 top editorial people...a cost cutting move. And while metropolitan newspapers face many challengers, they are only a small minority of America's newspapers.
Did you know that Oklahoma alone has almost 200 newspapers, and many of them are doing very well? Most of them are weeklies--serving local communities, but that's another story, which I wrote about in Oklahoma Today and the International Society of Weekly Newspapers Editor's newsletter last year. That's another story.
What follows is a version of part of my monthly column in the Oklahoma Press Association Publisher this month--some random pixels of digital thoughts and information for the New Year.
Several recent events about media along with more explosions of information put newspapers and journalism on the front page.
As much as I like to sit down with a print newspaper, and spend my time thumbing through it, spending time on what I want, I’m increasingly dependent on digital technology, even though scrolling through a web site is not really fun nor attention grabbing. I may spend more time online, but I spend less time on site.

Newspapers have always been children of technology

My column is now a product of digital.  Without OPA's digital service that all papers send copies to, and the ability to reproduce pages, email, and providing links, I couldn't scan copies every month to write my critique. Still it’s interesting to me that one of the most read sites on the Internet is the Newseum’s daily front pages…people still want to see print. http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/flash/
Then 60 Minutes recently did a piece on Newhouse newspapers depriving New Orleans of a daily newspaper. Rejecting a local bid to buy, the company gutted the paper, turned it to three days a week and said digital was the savior—in a city with more than 30 percent not online. I’d call it death by greed, demanding obscene profit margins, but they're doing it all wrong. They will continue to make less money.
Evidence of that can be seen in two places—Orange County, California, and Omaha. Warren Buffett bought his home town World Herald and is keeping it as a daily, because he cares about the community, and you can bet he’s still making money, but not with the huge corporate profits others demand.
Then the Orange County Register was bought, and the new owners are pouring money into the paper. Apparently the owners know that content sells, and cutting kills They’ve found digital advertising stagnant and print advertising rising.
Against this news, I learned that two universities are cutting or changing traditional “journalism” programs. Emory and the real big dog, Indiana University.
I’ll let you mull what this means. I don’t know.

A new golden age of journalism?

On the advice of journalism pros in this state, I’ve just taught a class, Twitter for Journalists. I can see you rolling your eyes. Speakers included Mike Sherman of The Oklahoman and Dave Rhea of the Journal Record. Much more about what I learned in that class of 24 senior students in the future. But all the speakers kept emphasizing it’s about content and storytelling. Hmmmm.
A final digital note, promoting print. Have fun and check out this YouTube video, “Six things you can miss while reading a newspaper": www.youtube.com/watch?v=e512_OxFWyM&feature=youtu.be
What does the future hold? We have no idea, but yes, it is exciting, and unsettling at the same time.I do know that Dave Rhea, managing editor for digital media at the Journal Record,  told my blogging class last year that he considered this a "Golden Age of Journalism." We live and work in interesting times.

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