Thursday, October 30, 2008

Newspapers not giving up yet

As pundits have debated the future of print newspapers over the years, I have held firm in my belief that many people will always hold on to a strong bond with paper: I do. As technology has become more and more prevalent, with tiny screens providing the means to access just about anything, anywhere at any time, in some ways that will also be the savior for newspapers.
What I mean is, we will only go so far with technology before there is some push back.
That push back may be happening now. According to research done by the National Newspaper Association, readership is up for newspapers (  The NNA reports, "In 2008, more people reported reading a newspaper each week, rising to 86 percent form 82 percent in 2005 and 83 percent in 2007."
I thought that was an extremely high number. And it gets better, "They also report that they're spending more time reading the newspaper, up to 45 minutes, an increase over 2005 (38 minutes) and 2007 (42 minutes)."
While some want to write off newspapers as a dying breed, I'm not ready to jump on that bandwagon. I am ready to admit newspapers need to continue to be smart, responsive to readers and nimble enough to dance with the times.
While this may disappoint some who will have to admit they were wrong about the future of newspapers, they're not going away as an entire industry.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Feature Stories

Feature stories are what set newspapers apart. A basic newspaper reports information - as it happens and previewing events. A reader-oriented paper provides information in a more interesting way. This includes investigative reporting and feature writing.

In a lot of ways, feature writing is best when it's worked into the news on a daily basis. Reporters can ask questions: How can I relate this to readers? Who is affected by this story? Is there a personal example of the implications of this story I can use to relay the information?

When these approaches are used, information is transferred to readers in a more meaningful way. For example, a story about the number of home foreclosures last month in Detroit is interesting. A story about an individual family, with their personal struggles and situation, is memorable. Both tell the story about a problem in Detroit and nationwide. Which would you rather read?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Torch suggestions

Among the advice Saul Hansell of the NY Times had for members of the Torch staff was this: Serve readers (students) where they are. What was he getting at with this comment? Basically, do more beyond the print edition. One tip he had was to have a blog for each section of the paper that would be updated on an "as news happens" basis rather than waiting for Wednesdays to roll around to provide news.
A statement he made: No mature adult wants wait to read about a football game that happened Saturday until Wednesday's paper comes out.

Passion for your work

Saul Hansell, technology reporter for the NY Times, visited Big Rapids this week as part of the Ferris State University Political Engagement Project. Members of the Torch staff and I were lucky enough to have dinner with Saul. While he had many enlightening things to share, the main thing I took away from him was his passion for what he does for a living.
If we could all carry that sort of passion into our career, the world would be a better place.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What I want to read....

I would like to read an article about the presidential election that gets the candidates to talk about the economy in a new way. Where I'm heading is reminiscent of JFK's famous "ask now what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" speech.
What burden must individual Americans bear in order for our country to get through this economic crisis? I don't believe all the blame goes to Congress, the White House, the banks or the lenders. Individuals are also to blame. And I want a president who will hold all parties responsible, not only the obvious ones who everyone is blaming.
To do this, a reporter will have to ask good questions. And put the candidates on the spot. Can it happen?

Friday, October 3, 2008

News Judgement

Sometimes, news is thin.
Those days are most difficult in newsrooms. Figuring out what is worthy of front-page print is easy when there are major stories - a fire with multiple deaths, a presidential candidate visits town, the mayor is found guilty of perjury, a car accident blocks the major highway during rush hour, a school bond passes to build a new high school - those are easy decisions.
When news is not flying like that, things become more difficult. There are many reasons a story can end up on the front page of a paper: Timeliness, value to readers, a well-written piece, and/or simply a slow news day can all factor into decisions. Lately, there has been a flood of major national news with the presidential election looming and the economy taking center stage.
What do you think is worthy of front page news? Why?