Monday, May 10, 2004

Five Print Media Myths

1.) We're objective.

I don't think anyone can be objective. We are all the products of our surroundings and personal beliefs. Too much news becomes mushy in pursuit of "objectivity." We should, instead, strive for fairness. That is, we acknowledge that we all have different views and try to reflect that in an equitable manner.

2.) News doesn't have an entertainment purpose.

Yeah, we like to feel better than the reality TV folks. But we still put "brights" on front pages, still encourage columnists to be colorful, still look for that wacky wire story to fill the inside. Face it folks: we serve up entertainment sometimes.

3.) Readers care about the same things we do.

Newspapers spend tremendous time and effort on series of stories and projects that often bore folks to tears. Yes, we know the doll factory made defective dolls. Do we really need the 50th follow-up story about the factory, moving the story an eighth of an inch forward?

4.) That we're not obsolete.

With the Web, television and radio, newspapers no longer have a monopoly on anything. Pictures? TV does it better. Frothing-at-the-mouth commentary? Turn on Rush in the afternoon. In-depth articles and analysis? Check out some of the better blogs.

Newspapers will be around for years to come -- because of their place in the public consciousness and because no other organizations have similar news-gathering infrastructures yet. But that time will come, and we shouldn't delude ourselves.

5.) That Generation X/Y/Whatever doesn't care.

Younger people care about the world and news. Look at the people who flocked to Howard Dean's campaign. Consider the huge audience for the topical "Daily Show" on Comedy Central. The appetite is there.

Do newspapers address it? Nope. They either ignore the demographic entirely, publishing more and more aging-boomer items, or they condescend mightily. Red Streak anyone? Anyone?

Young people will read newspapers.

But newspapers have to give them a reason.