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Archive for Thursday, June 2, 2011

Writers evaluating public worth of newspapers across country

Sara Brown and her husband, Paul Steinle, with WhoNeedsNewspapers.org are visiting one newspaper in each state to report how newspapers are recasting themselves in the digital age and to document what unique community roles newspapers fulfill.

June 2, 2011

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Sara Brown and her husband, Paul Steinle, prepare for a video interview with the publisher and editors at the Lawrence Journal-World Thursday, June 2, 2011. Brown and Steinle are with WhoNeedsNewspapers.org and are visiting one newspaper in each state to report how newspapers are recasting themselves in the digital age and to document what unique community roles newspapers fulfill.

Sara Brown and her husband, Paul Steinle, prepare for a video interview with the publisher and editors at the Lawrence Journal-World Thursday, June 2, 2011. Brown and Steinle are with WhoNeedsNewspapers.org and are visiting one newspaper in each state to report how newspapers are recasting themselves in the digital age and to document what unique community roles newspapers fulfill.

Driving 26,500 miles in a 10-year-old pickup and towing a 31-foot-long trailer, Sara Brown and Paul Steinle are taking a decidedly old-fashioned approach to solving a 21st century quandary.

With consumers increasingly relying on the Internet and smartphones and an ever-expanding array of devices to exchange, share and compile information for free, just how can a trusted provider of information — the newspaper — survive and thrive?

Finding the answer, they say, could go a long way toward determining just how much character is retained by small towns and big cities alike.

“Something’s at stake here, and that is sort of the local identity of these communities,” said Steinle, who fears the newspaper industry could follow the loss of local radio during the past two decades. “I mean, do you want a community that’s all ‘American Idol,’ or do you want one that actually has something of its own to be proud of?”

Steinle and Brown are journalism educators serving as on-the-scene staff writers behind an nationwide research project — dubbed Who Needs Newspapers? — backed by their own not-for-profit organization, Valid Sources. The goal: check in with publications throughout the country to see what’s working and not working, and to clarify what they see as the value of newspapers for the public.

So far they’ve visited 45 publications in 45 states, filing reports along the way. Steinle and Brown started in June 2010 at the Sequoyah County Times in Sallisaw, Okla., and on Thursday stopped by the News Center, 645 N.H., to interview leaders of the Journal-World.

Newspapers are more than newsprint. Brown said: Such operations provide vital information to communities through both print and, especially now, digital platforms.

“There’s definitely a transition in process,” she said.

And the best companies are finding ways, incrementally, to move ahead, Steinle said. While newspapers for years have been using traditional advertising to finance 80 percent of operations, Steinle figures that newspapers will get into what he calls the “transactional” side of business.

“Why does Amazon work?” he asked. “It’s because of their transactional service. They don’t make books; they just sell them, and distribute them to people.

“Newspapers are really good at connecting people, but they’ve never taken a piece of the action out. They’ve always just charged for advertising. So, if they could take a piece of the transaction — you know, 2 percent, just like American Express does, or Amazon and all those people — that might be the answer. Who knows?”

Steinle and Brown continue their search for answers. Still to come are visits to media operations in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota.

To see their reports and learn more about the project, visit WhoNeedsNewspapers.org.

The Journal-World report should be available in about 11 weeks, Steinle said.

Comments

steveguy 3 years, 6 months ago

Newspapers are a dying breed. A thing of the past. It has run its course.

blindrabbit 3 years, 6 months ago

Need further proof of Steveguy's comment; just witness what has happened to the Journal World during the last 3-4 years. It has become nearly a useless rag except for sports and legal notices.

John Reher 3 years, 6 months ago

Don't know anyone who accumulates newsprint anymore. That being said, this is actually a pretty good site. So, give some credit to the LJW.

TheStonesSuck 3 years, 6 months ago

Don't let that liberal media tell yoo how ta live yo life!

goodcountrypeople 3 years, 6 months ago

I don't rely very much on the mainstream media to get the news anymore, but small-town, local newspapers do serve an important role. The problem with most newspapers is that they are so beholden to the powers that be instead of truth and justice. I read the opinion page a lot because at least on there there's a small variety of views.

Jimo 3 years, 6 months ago

The largest beef I have with newspapers besides the lack of variety in viewpoints presented is that so much of what passes for journalism is really stenography - and even then stenography from a narrow point of view.

Whether in print or the tiny box, the fixation on topics usually has little to do with real people's concerns and the voices invariably represent corporatist establishment views. There's nothing unusual about a story that just quotes an official who says something radical but then leaves the matter at that without any attempt to condition, query, or refute such a view.

Likewise, anyone stuck watching a Sunday morning news presentation will, more likely than not, be faced with a parade of right-wing voices only occasionally interrupted by a token leftist (sometimes merely a conservative Democrat!). Topics invariably are what wealthy right-wing persons want to focus on, not what concerns average voters. Currently, for example, it's on "the deficit" (which is wingnut-speak for 'how do we cut the size of gov't and lower wealthy people's taxes even further, at times even while making the real deficit larger), while the average citizen worries about unemployment, job insecurity, and a decade-long decline in wages. (I watched a few months ago each of the Sunday morning programs for Fox, CNN, ABC, and NBC--ugh-- and, despite much banter about economic matters, the word "unemployment" did not pass a single person's lips! How much more at odds with reality can you get?)

Lawrence Morgan 3 years, 6 months ago

I completely disagree with the viewpoints expressed above of steveguy, blindrabbit, nonracist and TheStonesSuck.

In my opinion, the web site for the Journal-World is extraordinary. Perhaps people who say these kinds of things are very narrow in the kinds of things that interest them in the world. Plus they often have a great deal of sarcasm in their lives.

Almost every day I find articlles in the Journal World about this community which I would otherwise never have discovered, and some that I can act upon personally. I think there will always be a place in the imaginative person's life for this kind of reporting.

I also listen to and read BBC television, French television, the NY Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Huffington Post, the Washington Post - YET, nevertheless, I find articles in the Journal World that I can't find anywhere else.

Whether it be the Civil War, schools, neighborhoods, or eating well - what would this community be without a newspaper such as the Journal-World? They make Lawrence come alive every day of the week, for people who observe in their daily world what goes on around them,and their lives are much more happy and thoughtful as a result of it.

And by the way - I often disagree with Dolph Simons viewpoints - but he puts a lot of thought into his articles. How many of the thoughts expressed by the commentators put the same energy into their comments? I personally feel that you shouldn't be able to comment without including your name. This would take away the anonymity of the internet and would make the comments which are published much better.

Newspapers are changing their way of doing business, which I will comment in more detail upon at another time. But newspapers involve everyday history - right now - and yet they also make it possible, over time, to form a collective vision of what the community was at a certain time in its history. To me they are an invaluable source of knowledge - including the photographs, that many people, later on, will want to go back and sort through. The writing on the Journal World has become much better than from when I was a college student at KU-but it is the images, as well as the internet, which have taken the newspaper to what it is today. If it were were not for the Journal-World, the world would be a much duller place than it now is.

TheStonesSuck 3 years, 6 months ago

Everybody look at this guy! He's a got them book smerts. In all seriousness, I largely agree with you, cept the part where you threw me under the bus. XD

TheStonesSuck 3 years, 6 months ago

Actually, I re-read your post and completely disagree about taking away the anonymity of the internet. You wanna talk draconian ideas, there you have it. Such a policy would undoubtedly impinge free expression (not to mention put a ton of money in comcast's pocket.) No thank you, having to digest ideas repugnant to your own is what makes life spicy.

Carol Bowen 3 years, 6 months ago

  • At least 50% of my neighborhood is not internet savvy.

  • There is an assumption that everyone will read the news online. What has happened is fewer people are reading the news period. No time. Especially, no time for rehashed news.

  • Facebook and MySpace are not news media.

  • Do folks really think they are getting news from 30 second soundbites, reporters pointing at flashing lights in the dark, or CNN's melodramas?

  • There is less news in newspapers. It's been quite a few years since I have seen a news article accompanied by a map. It would really help with what's going on in the middle east. A more local example of no news was the lack of information about the candidates for the last local election. It was no surprise the voter turnout was low.

There is still a role for the newspaper, but give us news and cut back on the ads.

TheStonesSuck 3 years, 6 months ago

I think understand your point (people need to have actual news easily accessible in a form they're comfortable with.) But come on, people who are not Internet saavy are a dying breed, and for good reason. Not to say they're bad people or anything, but the new way is here (and it's exponentially more informative.) In all due respect, if you think people get their news off facebook and myspace, you might be part of that 50%. A good, easy place to start is google news (it's like having 10,000 newspapers in front of you, from all over the world.) The real discussion is who is willing to pay these incredible reporters after the newspaper industry is no longer viable?

Carol Bowen 3 years, 6 months ago

While I am high tech, I do not expect everyone to be high tech. The ability to use or have access to technology is not age-specific nor is it necessarily desirable. Those of us who work with and understand technology do not spend enough time on more human activities. i.e., personal interaction.

I could go on about how we should rely on computers cautiously. Email, blogging, and social websites are void of the range of human expression. The text can easily be misinterpreted. Students who take coursework on computers have a great deal of difficulty applying what they have "learned". If a user learns to play solitaire on a pc, that user will not be able to use real cards and may not even know how many cards are in a deck. The learning is two-dimensional.

Computers and other technologies have a role, but they should not consume us.

SpeedRacer 3 years, 6 months ago

Back in the day, when I lived elsewhere, I always took the evening newspaper because it had the news of the day, I always regarded morning newspapers as "yesterday's news". That is even more so now. I see stories in the LJW that I read as much as two days earlier. I have also noted that it has heavily trended towards middle aged women in recent years. I do go to the online site to try to get recent information on something happening, and this is a fairly good site, but I pretty much regard the newspaper as worthless.

TheStonesSuck 3 years, 6 months ago

I agree completely. I walked through a Hy-vee today (not in Lawrence, but it doesn't matter), and a newspaper from June 2, 2011 was laying on a table; not a story on the front page that I hadn't read online two days before. Not a slam on newspapers, but there is a reason I pay extra for broadband and abandoned dial up long ago.

Carol Bowen 3 years, 6 months ago

Ever since the Journal World changed to a morning paper, the news has been at least two days old. Maybe, the JW should just switch back to afternoons. It's never going to be a five-star paper like the Chicago Tribune.

Laura Wilson 3 years, 6 months ago

I stopped getting the physical paper years ago precisely because this site is so good. Online newspapers are the future, ones that can be updated quickly when something happens. I don't bother watching the television news unless a storm is coming or there's a story I want to see, because I can get online and get news much more quickly.

As a culture we've become accustomed to instant gratification and instant knowledge. I can check various news sites between the arrival of the morning paper and the five, six and ten o'clock evening news shows and find all the news that's happened, locally, nationally and around the world.

After 9-11, stuck in an office with only dialup and a radio, I demanded DSL. So, when we went to war, I was able to keep up with the news; ditto with Katrina. I don't want to wait like my grandparents did until I get home from work to find out what happened in the world. I'm no longer used to that wait.

Lawrence Morgan 3 years, 6 months ago

I have to say that I appreciated TheStonesSuck's comments.

As for Hear Me, I too find maps very important when reading an article. But the Journal World includes maps often with their articles, especially now that Google has taken map-making to a new level.Take a look at the recently published civil war memories (I think it was Monday, Memorial Day). The map that was included with the article pointed out a number of new things to me which I had not known before.

Take a look at towns which don't have the Journal World's quality (and I again emphasize how much the Journal World has changed - when I was in college, we used to run down the Journal World constantly) and see how differently you perceive that town which does not have a quality newspaper. That quality of management comes from many different aspects (and I am not an owner or in any way part of the Journal World). It comes from a thirst for quality and new experiences from the highest level downwards.

My own opinion is that, when Dolph Simons someday steps down, the Journal World would become a foundation, somewhat like the BBC in Great Britain. The New York Times has worked with this idea. This, plus videos for ads, would bring in quite a lot of income. I have a lot more on this idea for another time.

If you want to see BBC Television, go to http://tvpc.com, and under Great Britain, go to "BBC TV High Definition". If you have faster internet, go to BBC World News High Definition. You have to have Quicktime, which is free from Apple.

Also take a look at the many other countries there (another good location is wwitv.com) and, for example, French world news- at france24.com, which is TV broadcast 24 hours a day in three different languages (each with different web sites). For people interested in Africa, for example, which I am, no other single country provides African coverage of the French-speaking countries (translated into English) like the French. In addition to French world news, take a look at "This Week in Africa", as only one example of many different parts of the world on the French web site.

Lawrence

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