By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN, Tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com
Print is dead, you say?
Nah. It’s just evolving.
A few months ago I attended the Minnesota Newspapers Association (MNA) annual convention, and listened to a speaker talk about just that. I was particularly interested in the topic as I was negotiating to purchase the Midway Como Monitor and Longfellow Nokomis Messenger from longtime owners Calvin deRuyter and Tim Nelson. Was I taking a leap into a dying industry?
After listening to Bill Ostendorf of Creative Circle Media Solutions, I was reassured. He’s spent his whole career in newspapers, and he doesn’t believe print is dead.
After 20 years in the industry, I don’t either.
Why am I convinced?
Well, they first started saying newspapers were going to die when radio got popular. But newspapers stuck around.
Then they said newspapers and radio couldn’t last when the television came out. Yet newspapers stayed and even thrived.
When the Internet got big, they were sure it was the final death knoll of newspapers, radio and television. Yet radios are still in every car, most people have one or more televisions in their house, and newspapers continue to print.
The thing is, people are reading now more than ever before. So the question isn’t whether people are reading, the question is are they going to read particular publications.
The questions those of us in the news industry need to be asking is why should people read our stuff instead of the myriad of information out there.
What makes us different?
What makes us worth reading?
What makes our editions important?
Those are the questions I’m committed to asking. I entered the field of journalism at the cusp of the Internet revolution. For those first few years, I called the local librarian to doublecheck my details. And then fact-checking things became much faster via Google. (Although with its own new set of accuracy questions.) I even did a few editions of cut and paste before we switched over to electronic layout with QuarkExpress.
As I ask others what they love about neighborhood newspapers, I have been thinking about what I value. I want to know what’s happening on my street, what development is going to change my neighborhood, and what fascinating things my neighbors are engaged in. I want to see photos of kids I know and congratulate them on their achievements, noting, “I saw you in the paper.” I want to hear the various sides of issues and wrestle over what the best solution will be in the long run. I want to learn what sparked the coffee shop and hardware store and secondhand boutique owners to open up shop, and hear what tips they have for other entrepreneurs.
The daily stuff of my neighborhood can’t be found anywhere but in the papers of my neighborhood newspaper.
That’s what I love about community journalism. I stay in this industry because I love local, I love to see people engaged, and I love to watch community being built. I appreciate the slice of life the pages of the Monitor offer each month.
I’m also excited to see how newspapers are being innovative and creative. It’s amazing to see the convergence of media – of print, TV, radio, audio, video, and more – coming together in to something new.
What will community newspapers look like in 10 years? I’m looking forward to finding out. I think that the answer lies in asking our readers what they want.
Bill Ostendorf encouraged all the reporters in the room at the MNA Convention (and his session was packed) to focus on being reader-centric. This starts with the basics of what we write in an article, how we shape it, and who we include in it. It also means focusing on writing really good headlines about people instead of things, and really interesting photo cutlines. Plus we need more break-out boxes and standout photos. Research has shown that people read headlines, cutlines and break-out boxes first – and they may or may not read the whole article.
Ostendorf advocated for content that is more engaging and more relevant. He encouraged designers to adopt modular layouts that are easier on the eyes. He encouraged sales staff to sell bigger ads that get attention and bring value to the readers.
Ostendorf reminded us that our print newspapers help people live better lives. The information within our pages informs and educates. It helps people make better decisions and be successful.
What do you want from the pages of the Monitor? I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line at Tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here