Revving Up that News Engine and Taking on TV

I’m finding myself wondering what a new spirit of competition will mean for local news.

My research shows that it is finally dawning on newspapers that they can rev up that news engine that invariably is the biggest one in town and, with an increased focus on immediacy, compete with local TV news and radio at a game they have owned for years.  Indeed, when I have asked people how their job has changed the most in the last few years, the most common answer is that that newspapers are operating much more quickly and that they have more of a wire service mentality.

Newspaper folks eyes start to glow when they talk about how readers now can come to their Website to get information on how the blizzard is affecting their commute or to get the latest updates on a breaking political scandal rather than relying on television or radio.  At a time in which the blogosphere often depicts most newspaper folks as doing nothing more than weeping in their beer over the lost glory days, this actually injects extra enthusiasm in many folks who  still remember fondly the days when they counted other local papers among their competition.

This has been obvious of course for quite some time on the national news front, where the networks, Websites and cable are all valid sources of election returns and the like,  but I haven’t heard it discussed as much at the local level (I’m probably just missing it).

In terms of managing change, I think that anything that raises buy-in levels for a Web-first philosophy is a good thing; getting the scoop has long been a part of journalism’s value systems, and research shows that it is easy to make changes that are consistent with values. Also, to break news consistently, you have to invest in original reporting, which I think is important.

The potential drawbacks are obvious.  The advent of the 24-7 news cycle has made everyone aware that pressure to be first can inhibit the most critical journalism value of them all, verification; some argue that this will push newspapers into doing  softer or sensational stories like the crime news that now dominates most local television.  It doesn’t have to be that way, though — a lot of it will depend on how newspapers decide to execute their goals of greater immediacy.

What do you think?  What will this competition mean at the local level?



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2 responses to “Revving Up that News Engine and Taking on TV

  1. I am not in your business, but I was interested in your post. (I have done some consulting work for a large newspaper and have seen the challenges you address.)

    I was intrigued by your comment about building buy-in for Web-first philosophy. I get a lot of my news from the Internet – -but then I click to read the story. I am not content with the snippets of news approach that some web services and many television stations provide. I want the beef.

    I don’t think I am alone. It seems like there are a lot of people who want to know the story behind the story even though the firs theadline they may see is on their smartphone.

    If I wer etrying to influence a newsroom. I would first find my supporters. Hint: anyone under 35 probably is a Web-first type of person. They can be your allies. Second, I would find ways for the newsroom to hear from your readers. How do they want their news? Are they still interested in real reporting and in-depth coverage?

    I often find that companies I consult to get quite interested in considering change when they learn directly from customers that the old service isn’t working for them.

    I wish you well.

    Rick Maurer (blog)

  2. changingnewsroom

    Interesting, thanks for commenting, Rick. It’s interesting that while to a certain extent the under-35-is-more-Web-savvy is true, that’s not as much the case as you might expect. Generally there are some personalities that find it easier, or more fun, to embrace new technologies and some that don’t. Indeed, I actually have found very little personal resistance to the Web among journalists…the problem tends to be more figuring out how to make things happen and how to handle an increasing workload when duties for print haven’t changed.

    Thanks for your insight.

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