B A H j o u r n a l i s t

Brian Anthony Hernandez

Damn good ‘Future of Newspapers’ speech

Here’s an excerpt from a DAMN good speech my boss (Susan Goldberg, editor-in-chief at the Cleveland Plain Dealer) gave in December:

“Yes, these are tough times. Yes, our market has fractured, and the business model for the traditional metropolitan newspaper is irreparably broken. We have to get from where we are now – where the diminishing paper product pays all the bills – to where we need to be: A world in which the growing online product can support a robust newsgathering staff.

“Many of my middle-aged colleagues look at this state of affairs and conclude that our best days are behind us..

“I think only the easy days are behind us. I believe the future for journalism and its place in our society holds great promise, and as much opportunity as ever to make a difference in our troubled world.

“New technologies mean we can do revelatory stories for even more readers and viewers. Technology can help us be creative in ways we never dreamed of, giving us the ability to reach people who wouldn’t think of picking up a newspaper but who want our stories online or in a multimedia format.

“Unfortunately, we are so busy collectively bemoaning declining print circulation, that we almost forget to mention that online readership is breaking new records every month, including here in Cleveland. In October more than 1.6 million unique users visited our online affiliate, Cleveland.com, up 41% from a year ago and with no sign of slowing down.

“This is vast readership, especially when combined with print. Let’s not forget that 45 million people in this country subscribe to a newspaper every day. Or, put it another way: More people read the Sunday newspaper on Super Bowl Sunday than watch the game, and that’s usually the largest television event of the year.

“And here’s another unacknowledged story: Newspapers are the primary source of news in this country, picked up (often without credit), repeated and sometimes distorted by radio, television, bloggers and anyone else who wants to hijack our content. We have more resources devoted to covering local news than any other medium, by far. We opine, entertain, inform and, most important, we investigate. I strongly believe that if newspapers stopped doing authoritative, watchdog stories about their communities, no one else would – because no one else could.

“But instead of telling that story, we have allowed ourselves to be” marginalized as “the mainstream media” – and will someone tell me again why that is a bad thing? – and, at least so far, we’ve allowed search engines and aggregators to all but steal the information we’ve paid to gather, while they disproportionately profit off the attendant advertising.

“We need to take a lesson from Silicon Valley and start telling our story in a different way – to take our failures, frankly acknowledge them, learn from them and strut our new stuff. We’ll never be as cool as Apple – but we should at least try.”


May 21, 2008 - Posted by | Cleveland Plain Dealer, Journalism

1 Comment »

  1. […] “While typing this, I was reminded of a speech my editor at The Cleveland Plain Dealer gave in December 2007. I wasn’t there when she gave it, but I found the text soon after. It’s powerful. Two years ago, I described it as a ‘Damn good Future of Journalism speech,’ which you can read in a past blog post. […]

    Pingback by 7 journalists discuss their confidence in newspapers and journalism « B A H j o u r n a l i s t | August 18, 2010 | Reply

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