Be the Newspaper You Want To See


What The Huffington Post does extremely well is select and highlight its stories to appeal to its audience. Even more important than the whiff of progressive politics is the feeling that there is active human intelligence making choices.

And the result is a far more satisfying news product than a Google News offers.

Arianna Huffington may be the frontwoman and her site’s chief celebrity blogger. But the real stars of The Huffington Post, in the new iteration especially, are the anonymous editors who put the package together. You know, like at a real newspaper.

Steve Johnson’s one of the sharpest media critics out there. He doesn’t fall back on stupid clichés to explain things and he came up with one of my favorite lines for responding to clueless people who complain about “the media,” which is that “it’s about as savvy as sneering at ‘vehicles’ when your real beef is with the dump truck that ran over your dog.” He and Rosenbloom (who when he writes about hockey is a goddamn poet) are the reasons we still get the Trib.

I was having this conversation with an editor friend a while back, about the whole Digital Dilemma, and Why We’re Losing Readers, and the usual newspaper complaints. And really, it’s very simple. People read newspapers because newspapers have information they want. If the newspaper no longer has anything they want, they’ll go elsewhere for the information.

(Or they’ll go elsewhere if you force them, by delivering the paper badly or never letting them know what might be in it for them if they’d pick it up, but we’re talking about content at the moment. Marketing and distribution are later.)

If there’s info and commentary and discussion that is entertaining, informative and worthwhile in a newspaper people will go to a newspaper. If it’s online, they’ll go online. A web site is not instant profit, nor is a paper instant loss. They’re delivery systems, and if what you’re delivering is good enough, people will get it any way they have to. But if it sucks, people would just as soon not bother with picking up the pile of plastic-wrapped dumbassery, whining, Krauthammer re-runs and sudden discovery that there’s crime in the city off their porches, thank you very much.


5 thoughts on “Be the Newspaper You Want To See

  1. I’ve written several pieces on this situation. In fact, I have a whole category of my blog dedicated to it. Please read and comment as you see fit because there are all of 2 folks around here who care about the future of media and eMedia.

  2. our paper used to have good editorials, but now it is just awash in rite wing invective. and they wonder why nobody want to read it.

  3. My list of things newsies need to do to make money from me:
    1. Give me something to read. And I mean something to read that I can’t get anywhere else. Otherwise, why would I go to your paper? That means (to me, anyway) local stories. Why try to cover national news when I can go to any of 100 sources that will cover it better and deeper and faster? It also means giving those stories you do write the attention they deserve. Finally, give me those stories in real time. The biggest drawback of the print medium is that it’s so slow. No matter how fast your reporter gets the story and writes it, by the time it gets into the hands of your reader, it’s at least several hours old. Let it go, guys–the interwebs have made print obsolete. You just haven’t admitted it yet.
    2. Treat me like an adult. Don’t try to direct me to your print version by only doing teaser stories in the online version. Don’t limit my access to archival stories online. If you need to do ad content on each view to make that work, I’m cool with that. Don’t make me log in or join or whatever. If you need to do that to allow me to comment, that’s fine, but don’t make me do it just to read your stories. Keep the visuals clean and elegant–I’m not going to be impressed by bright whirly thingies and dancing headlines. I came to you for news, not Disneyland.
    3. Tell your investors to take a flying leap. The whole point of a newspaper is to serve the needs of the readership. Otherwise, the profits will never materialize. The system is based on the idea that your readers will come to you to get their information, and while getting their information, they see the ads and buy from those advertisers. So do what is best for the readers, and they’ll come to you and buy from the advertisers. If newspaper publishers were running Goodyear, they’d be making fewer tires because rubber costs so much money. The reporters are the product we’re buying, guys.

  4. I have written many times (won’t bother with a link) on the subject of “bloggers as journalists” – one of the primary functions of journalism is story selection and story emphasis. Yes, that’s the function of the editor, not a reporter, but it is “journalism,” and in this sense political bloggers like this site and mine are very much journalism. The only difference between us and Huffington Post is that the latter has a large budget and a much larger scope (I, and presumably you, don’t count on my blog being a primary source of information for readers, only a secondary source, whereas HP seems to aspire to becoming a primary source).
    When you read the non-local news pages of almost any paper in the country with just a handful of exceptions, they all take their stories from exactly the same sources that I (or HP) do – AP, Reuters, WashPost, NYTimes, etc. One difference, though, in my case, is that my list of primary sources extends much further – Granma, Ha’aretz, Guardian, etc.

  5. That’s why I love the Toronto Star. Ostensibly a local paper, they have a huge budget funding overseas bureaux, and actually do their own reporting on many subjects (compare and contrast to the local fishwrap in this two-horse burg, which buys most of its stories from CP, AP, and Reuters).
    Among the articles that stand out for me that the Star did were a series on conditions faced by people living in the far north of Ontario (appalling!), and a series on racial profiling by the Toronto police force. I keep going back to their website (and even click on ads) because they keep giving me stuff I like to read. (I confess: I even like their “Acts of Kindness” daily feature, which is basically a series of reader-submitted anecdotes about random acts of niceness.)
    I keep going back to their site, and I’ll read the paper version when I can get it (I’m not in their local delivery area, and the few copies that make it to stores here don’t last long enough for me to get one, usually.)
    I have to second Eli Stephens. I like Ha’aretz and The Guardian, too. (Weirdly, I know someone who writes for YNet, which is the online site for Yedioth Ahronot, but I don’t read it very much. It seems kind of tabloidy to me.)

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