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A newspaper’s mentality

In 2009, a slew of papers across the country started to drop days in their print schedule in favor of publishing daily online. Since then, newspapers have increasingly invested in digital strategies in order to evolve with the times. We now have iPad and smartphone apps, as well as tablet-only newspapers. But as the media continues to grow digitally, print still exists as the core foundation of many papers.

So what is a newspaper’s mentality? Posing the question to several editors, the responses were varied but made it clear that the digital way is becoming the dominant function among newspapers.

West Virginia’s Bluefield Daily Telegraph may function more as a print entity, but that’s changing, noted publisher Darryl Hudson in an email interview. “Having recently added a local video site and doing updates throughout the day on our website, the paradigm is slowly changing,” he said. Add to that the social media component of Facebook and Twitter, where staffers post updates and breaking news is sent out into the digital spectrum. “So the thought process is evolving,” he said.

Already in the online mentality is Georgia’s Augusta Chronicle. Executive editor Alan English noted in an email interview that although the paper has made good progress in becoming a digital-first news organization, there’s more work ahead.  “We have a news and information center (a.k.a newsroom) doing many types of journalism for all of our platforms. Editors and front line journalists work together to decide the best ways to deliver the news in a timely and compelling manner, thinking digitally first. The printed newspaper is just one of the ways we deliver a news reading experience,” he said. “Digital outlets to include social media tend to be the first place our coverage emerges. Coverage is continuous and evolving. The printed page reflects this coverage but cannot contain it all in the ways we work.”

But not every newspaper is working digitally minded. Kentucky’s Appalachian News-Express operates in 100 percent print mode with an online edition, noted editor Jerry Boggs. Various reasons play into the paper’s print mentality, he noted. Business models for charging online content are still unproven; the paper’s audience is older and more inclined to read print; subscription numbers drive advertising; and a  large number of advertising supplements are inserted into editions. So far, it works, he said. “Our circulation has grown by double digits over the last three years.” Despite this, Boggs noted they do use social media to augment coverage, while reporters and photographers are reminded to shoot video while on assignment. But the focus remains on print.

Meanwhile, Boston Herald editor Joe Sciacca takes a whole different approach. “I do not see myself as a newspaper editor, but instead as the leader of a news organization that produces high quality, original content that can be used across platforms – whether it is print, Web or broadcast,” he said. “The challenge for a newspaper is to be relevant when it hits the streets and that is increasingly difficult in this age of the Internet and 24-hour cable news,”

To stay relevant, the Herald starts the day with exclusive, enterprise stories and uses the newspaper to promote the website. “But we aim for full print-Web integration by which our stories have Web components including video, online polls, chats, blogs and other features that attempt to send our print audience to the Web and our online audience to print,” he said. Social media engagement is heavily utilized, in addition to the paper’s online commenting system. Meanwhile, all bloggers launch online with an introductory video, giving readers a taste of the face behind the text.

Among other developments, including redesigning several sections in the print edition with a Web-like feel, the Herald is creating content that is adaptable for mobile devices, he noted. “It’s obvious that news consumers want to get their information rapidly, in real time when possible. And they are no longer content to be passive receptors,” Sciacca said. “They want to be active participants, engaging our writers and columnists and editors directly as they ask questions, debate issues and express opinions. The future of news is instant, mobile and interactive.”

— Katrina M. Mendolera


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