Several journalists recently gathered at Fresno State University’s Roger Tatarian Journalism Symposium to discuss the future of newspapers and they weren’t exactly upbeat. Over the last few years newspaper circulation has gradually dwindled as older readers died and younger readers gravitated towards online news sites run by the cable networks or the large search engines like Google and Yahoo!. The executive editor of the San Jose Mercury News Susan Goldberg said that the business model of the newspaper is under siege and that “It’s not an easy job to figure out, especially (to appeal) to the younger readers who really don’t have an interest in ink on dead trees.”
Admittedly while newspapers are often easier to read than their online counterparts they can’t compare when it comes to reacting to daily events or the convenience of reading the news while on the go or in crowded spaces.
The other panelists which included Gary Pruitt, the president, chairman and CEO of the McClatchy Company, Jim Houck of the Visalia Times-Delta and reporter Jeff Rowe of the Orange County Register agreed that besides falling circulation and online competition, the lack of diversity in the newsroom is also a factor in the decline of the print media. What is surprising about this is that they weren’t just referring to ethnic diversity but also a political diversity. Last year at the same forum reporter Helen Thomas dismissed the idea that the media had a liberal bias. This year the panel acknowledged that most reporters were indeed liberal. Rowe said “Reporters should be neutral observers. If we’re not, I wonder how credible we would be,” and Goldberg added “I honestly wish we had more conservative, anti-abortion gun owners in our newsroom? not that they’d take the gun to work,” Did I just read that? Stop the Presses!
I don’t expect the San Jose Mercury News to get flooded with applicants that fit Goldberg’s description nor do I expect them to advertise for such individuals but at least the executive editor is on the record of recognizing that in this day and age without diversity of opinion readers will continue to look elsewhere for their news in larger and larger numbers.
Newspapers aren’t dead yet, but they are at a disadvantage in an era of rapidly changing technology which the industry hasn’t been know to readily embrace and low overhead, also another problem area for these heavily unionized companies I wouldn’t be abig investor in newsprint futures.