Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why editors need to take the word "news" out of newspapers

Today was another example of newspapers trumpeting stale news on their front pages, reinforcing the impression that there's no point in reading them because they're so far behind in reporting what's happening.

USA Today lead headline: Obama sharpens response on Iran
Wall Street Journal above the fold: Obama rips Iran in Tactical shift
New York Times lead headline: Obama condemns Iran's iron fist against protests
Denver Post (bottom right using a McClatchy Newspapers story): Obama condemns Iran's crackdown, lauds protesters

This "news" in Wednesday's editions comes from a midday (Eastern Time) news conference on Tuesday. I heard it through the day on the radio and TV and read many updates on the Web, including on some of these papers' sites. Yet, still, this is what editors decide to deliver the next morning.

I worry how damaging this is for the future of newspapers. The first thing I read most mornings is the WSJ news digest on the the front page. It's truly useful because it gives me a good sense of what happened in the intervening 24 hours. But I'm not interested in a longer story about something I already know about unless it truly takes me into new territory.

I think the insistence on sticking with a conventional approach to news could be one of the factors that will drive newspapers into the ground - except for those loyalists who just can't give up on reading a paper. Maybe that's a rational approach to running a business, but it sure is dull and it sure doesn't seem to demand much from the newspaper or its staff.


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