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Friday, July 26, 2013

A Tale About Newspapers

 Hot Off The Press

From The Guardian:

Conventional media wisdom posits several ways for a newspaper to commit suicide. It can drive up costs by multiplying staff and pagination. It can prioritise print over digital. It can erect a hard paywall to seal itself from the internet.

Or, if you are the Orange County Register, you can do all three. The California daily did so almost exactly a year ago, prompting astonishment and morbid curiosity. How long would it last? In a crisis-stricken industry more accustomed to death by a thousand cuts, the Register, which dates back a century, at least promised a dramatic and original demise.

But this week, as the paper prepares to celebrate the experiment's first anniversary, it appears to be thriving. "It's working," marvelled the editor, Ken Brusic. "We believe that this will work."
The paper's ambitious expansion and defiance of conventional wisdom has cheered and baffled the industry. Is it for real? Is there a magic formula to avert cutbacks and slumping circulation?...

Register staff – the newsroom has doubled to 360 in the past year – exude giddy, wary optimism that their paper has a bright future. Instead of rewriting stories they are filling multiple new sections with original reporting. "Feel the weight. This has 10 sections – and on a Tuesday. If it hit your cat, you'd kill it," said Rob Curley, deputy editor of local news.
Survival by concentrating by doing what you do the best you possibly may. That is innovative, especially in a time when most content and quality is compromised to increase profits. Look at any industry and you can see a conscious choice to reduce quality or reduce content; from Orange Juice - the 64 oz. containers now have 59 oz. - to newspapers, such as in Detroit, where the Detroit newspapers led the way into journalistic irrelevance.

And speaking of Detroit, again we see a hint of some further dynamics behind today's urban crises. Detroit stopped doing what it was best at. The question is why? There are answers at all levels, from city government all the way up to a Society which creates great inequities, thereby stirring the flows of people and capital. (I am only speaking of inequity such as establish by law and customary usage and norms, not purely economic differences in levels of economic entities.)

If we cannot succeed by doing the absolute best at what we do, we can only stave off disaster for a short time.

How long now has it been that we have not really been trying?
It's been a while.


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