Wednesday, December 31, 2008

'Newspapers are going to have to do things that CAN'T be done on the Internet'

Brian Gorman writes:

"Ask the people of Russell Township, near Ottawa, who wouldn't have known their councillors were about to vote the mayor a 70 percent pay increase if the editor of the little local rag hadn't dragged herself out of bed at dawn to cover an early-morning council meeting, and followed up with a series of news stories and editorials explaining why this amounted to highway robbery.

"(The mayor backed down because of the stink the paper kicked up.) No Internet site could have done the job the Russell Villager did, and many metro dailies are too uderstaffed or timid to take on city hall.

"There are two things of which I'm convinced: in the same way radio invented Top 40 and All-Talk in response to TV, newspapers are going to have to do things that CAN'T be done on the Internet - and that doesn't mean more fat, red-faced, middle-aged men interviewing their keyboards and vomiting up their opinions, and it doesn't mean stuffing your papers with graphics, fact-boxes and the facts ma'am just the facts. The Internet is full of that.

"It means more and better storytelling. More rounded, nuanced and penetrating reporting. Writers with the ability - and time - to make us see the world in a different light. Editors with the taste and imagination to help those writers grow to greatness, and the guts and power to stand up for, and to, their readers. Owners and publishers with brains enough to keep their busy little fingers off buttons and levers they don't understand.

"It means that you stop blaming the audience for their boredom with you and focus on delivering a literary-cultural-political experience for the few with imagination and wit enough to enjoy it.

"And stop worrying about the people who don't read; they aren't going to start just because you want them to. AND stop assuming that "elite" means "rich"; blue-collar readers have always been among the most loyal newspaper readers, and you don't win points with them by being anti-labor and slavishly pro-management.

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