Let us address the declining fortunes of today’s mainstream mass media.
(Yes, I can hear your pained screams of “Nooooo…we don’t want to!” However, we really must, because it’s not about them, but us — about our ability to be at least quasi-informed about who’s-doing-what-to-whom-and-why, in order for us to be a self-governing people. So buckle up, here we go.)
The honchos of America’s newspaper establishment are quick to blame the Internet for their loss of readers, not noticing that their own product has fallen victim to conventional wisdomitis. This affliction leaves them printing little more than the contrived “wisdom” of the corporate powers. It’s not a big selling point with readers.
Ironically, this narrow perspective not only saps their sense of what’s “news,” but also their business sense. For example, with readership declining, the accepted industry response by owners and publishers is to fire beat reporters, shrink the news hole, reduce reporting to rewrites of wire service articles, and run hokey PR campaigns hyping the shriveled product as “Real News.”
But here’s some real news they might want to consider: the new owners of the Orange County Register are blazing a contrarian path toward reviving their paper’s prosperity. Editor Ken Brusic notes that offering less to subscribers and charging more not only is a ripoff and an insult to readers, but a sure path to failure. “So,” he says, “we’re now offering more,” expanding the Register’s newsroom, its coverage, and the paper’s size.
Gosh — hire real watchdog reporters, dig out real news, and make the paper relevant to local readers — what a novel notion for a news business! Of course, the conventional wisdomites are sneering at this unorthodox approach. “It’s not what most people are doing,” said Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute.
Exactly — and that’s why it’s so promising.