Where is news headed now?

You probably missed 'Hi and Lois' on Monday. Go ahead, click on it, I'll wait the 20 seconds.

Welcome back. The fact is, more newspapers are, in fact, stopping print publication, or severely decreasing it.

I'm working in media again now, after almost three years out of the industry, and online-only or primarily-online is much more of a reality now than it was in late 2009 and early 2010 when the only papers who were going that way were in serious trouble. Now, there are papers taking preventative measures and cutting their print runs before they get into serious trouble.

I don't think journalism is in trouble, and more importantly, I don't think good journalism is in trouble.

I think newsprint is, and I've been saying that for four years now.

Back to this new job I have in news. It's primarily a production gig. You won't see my byline very often, and when you do, it'll primarily be stuff like this cross-market roundup that will appear on a dozen sites in various markets.

Because I work on a dozen sites in various markets.

My job may be very different in a couple of months, though. I'm not sharing anything here that isn't public somewhere, but some of the papers affiliated with our sites are cutting their publication schedules in the first quarter of 2013. We actually don't know what the day-to-day operation of our particular corner of the company is going to look like.

In other RIP newsprint news, The Sporting News is ending its 126-year print run with the issue dated Dec. 13. A sign that it's a good idea? Its front-page columnist says nobody recognizes him as the guy on the front of the paper.

Let's be clear, this shift to online is not about the journalism. It's about technology. It always has been.

You simply cannot make someone purchase and read a medium they don't want to read. Sure, there are people who want newsprint. But there aren't enough of them. There are also people who want to see Hollywood make more religious films, but there aren't enough of them for Hollywood to actually do it.

Online news still has a reputation problem. Newspapers that are going online-only are competing with sites that just can't figure out whether they're going to do serious news or not, and they're going to have to take the high road if they want to stay relevant to their readers. Here's a great synopsis of online news's maturity issue.

To wit, there's a big story locally about a high-profile college basketball player not getting arrested. Someone locally grabbed a photo that appeared to have the kid in handcuffs being escorted out of a store in the mall. The police and mall security both said they had no idea what that was about, but the store didn't call them at all that day.

I've successfully gone 13,171 days without getting arrested. Nobody's ever done a story on me not getting arrested.

We have to find a way for journalism to stop reacting to rumors and do serious reporting again. Update: More on reacting to rumors – watch this TED talk from Markham Nolan on separating fact from fiction online.

Ben Huh makes a great point in the video in the top of this post: We don't need everybody to write the same story. We need people to be willing to share the basic story and do your own angle on what the story means to your readership.

Yesterday, there was a shooting at an Oregon mall. How many stories across the country are "this is what happened"? Well, CNN, NBC and The New York Times all ran bylined stories. They differ in their coverage only in that they spoke to different frightened people. Other than that, they're all just "this is what happened" pieces. The Huffington Post had the good sense to run a wire story.

Other news outlets across the country are running "here's what happened" stories, too. Why are news organizations putting manpower resources into that story? Run the wire piece, and put the manpower resources into analyzing what it means for your community. That's where news organizations can separate themselves.

For Syracuse, N.Y., what does it mean for the giant shopping mall we're hoping will bring people from hundreds of miles away? Will people stay away? Will the payroll increase as security needs increase? For Springfield, Mass., what does it mean for Smith & Wesson, a gun manufacturer with a large plant? Will more people want guns for self-defense in a situation like that, or will guns get harder to purchase?

This is where local journalism can set itself apart.

This has been a long rant, and I haven't answered the question I posed at the beginning: Where is news headed now?

The answer is, I don't know, but it's going to depend heavily on technology. I think tablets are going to be short-lived. I own one, and my primary use of it is as a reader and for light productivity tasks. I don't see that changing much for the tablet industry. Something is coming next; Mitch has some ideas.

If the news industry wants to survive, it needs to be willing to meet consumers at the delivery method they want to use. The organizations that do will survive.


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