Cold Type

No slug is safe in today’s newsroom

Solving problems could solve ours

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If you haven’t read Bill Virgin’s farewell piece in The Seattle P-I, you should. Somehow I missed it until today and I have a feeling it’s going to stick with me for a while. His “final exam” for his readers begs the question: how do you kill a newspaper? Virgin argues it isn’t just the Internet or the economy and he’s right. In a nutshell, he asserts it’s because newspapers simply stopped providing enough value for the money and for its myriad audiences, whom it alienated with bad business decisions.

I’m reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point,” in which the point is made that a trend often doesn’t tip until many factors converge. That’s the case with newspapers. Bad decisions eroding audience + Internet eroding customers + economic meltdown + high debt = Doom.

Those first two are the doozies, of course. We used to solve lots of problems for our advertisers and our readers and we did it well. Then, along came magazines, radio, TV and the Web and they solved some of those same problems and, in may cases, did it better and/or cheaper, ie, Craiglist.

In my mind, that’s what we need to keep in mind every day from this point forward. We need to ask ourselves what problems we’re solving for our customers? Are we providing the best and most affordable means for them to promote their businesses? Are we providing fair and accurate reporting and are those reports timely and easy to find in print or online? Are we still a community watchdog? Are we helping our community connect and engage with each other to make it a better place to live? The list goes on and on, but I think it’s a list we take for granted.

We need to take our dose of humility that’s being served to us right now, learn from our mistakes and refocus, re-energize and retool the ways we do business or the P-I’s Virgin will be right: Class will be dismissed.


Written by coldtype

April 4, 2009 at 11:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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