I believe newspapers that intensively cover their communities will have a good future. It’s your job to make your paper indispensable to anyone who cares about what is going on in your city or town. That will mean both maintaining your news hole; a newspaper that reduces its coverage of the news important to its community is certain to reduce its readership as well and thoroughly covering all aspects of area life, particularly local sports. No one has ever stopped reading when half-way through a story that was about them or their neighbors.
|Warren Buffett on May 5, 2019 (Associated Press photo by Nati Harnik)|
For those who may not follow the industry closely, Buffett’s exit will probably be read as a high-profile vote of no confidence. However, there is no reason to think any of the papers will shut down — though they may well shrink further and eliminate print editions some days of the week over the next several years. Buffett was well aware of the digital transformation in progress. But given his age (89) I suspect he had a particular affection for print. And he was not alone in thinking that daily print remains a key to brand identity and community influence. So I do take his exit as one more marker of big changes in the works and of falling investor confidence. One of my industry sources summarized the news as “take my newspapers … please.”
|Walter Hussman Jr.|
We seem to be reverting to 19th-century ideas about news and partisanship. While cable-news networks have all done good journalism, they also feature highly opinionated commentators and shows. The problem is that there isn’t a sharp delineation between news and opinion, creating the perception that CNN, MSNBC and Fox News each have their own agenda. If community journalism in America doesn’t survive its economic challenges and we end up with three national newspapers, it is important that the public’s perception of those newspapers not mirror their perception of the cable networks. The solution is for reporters, editors and news executives to look inward, and not only to recommit ourselves to being fair, objective and impartial in our reporting, but to convince the public we are doing it. We also need to separate and clearly label news and opinion.
We practice journalism, which reports facts. To do that, we verify information, or we attribute it to someone else. That is called the discipline of verification, and it is the essence of the news media. There are two other types of information media: social media, which have no discipline, much less verification; and strategic media, which try to sell you something: goods, services, ideas, politicians, causes, beliefs, etc.
Newspapers once relied on one form of strategic media, advertising, for most of their income. Today, social media get more of the ad money, so newspapers must get more income from the only other reliable place they can get it: their readers, in the form of subscriptions or single-copy sales. As you might guess, we prefer subscribers, so we hope to earn your respect and loyalty.