Is the Arkansas Section Really Obsolete?

We realize we’re getting dangerously close to beating a dead horse here, still mining blog posts from Tuesday night’s SPJ-sponsored discussion between John Brummett and Kristin Fisher over new media. But I wanted to make a couple of points based on what was said.

Off the Mark

I think everyone’s ears perked up when Brummett, of the Arkansas News Bureau, noted that Max Brantley’s Arkansas Times blog “has rendered the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Arkansas section section obsolete.” And we’re sure the “print is dead” crowd loved it.

Old shoe?

Old shoe?

In many respects, Brummett’s right. Brantley’s ever-churning, always-updating blog provides a good distillation of the day’s news. On many days, one could easily foresake the daily newspaper for the nuggets you can quickly glean from any number of local or national news blogs and not miss a beat. Moreover, those blogs often deliver that information in ways that are more relevent and more useful to the way younger readers consum news, via RSS, the Web and mobile phone.

But Brantley’s blog, blogs we do at ArkansasBusiness.com, my personal blog and others are in many respects still very much dependent on the news produced by daily newspapers. The very institutions we regard (often for good reason) as stodgy and outdated and woefully behind the times are also often the only sources we have for the lion’s share of our daily local and national news coverage. Without them, most blogs would be rudderless.

Gwen Moritz, editor of Arkansas Business, noted in our office yesterday the irony that newspapers are failing at a time when newspaper content — i.e., news — is now in more demand than ever.

So, to me one of the Democrat-Gazette’s great missteps, and the misstep of most other daily newspapers, is not making news content available in ways that are relevant and accessible to a new generation of readers, online and beyond. And in that sense, yes, the D-G’s Arkansas section, and other similar sections in other daily newspapers around the country, have certainly become “obsolete.”

On Target

Second, to another point Brummett made that the future of news might lie in more targeted, niche entities. I agree, and not because I work at a niche publishing company, but because you can already see the future taking shape now as more and more reporters and editors get laid off and take buyouts.

These reporters and editors will invariably land in smaller, leaner news operations, many that are likely geared toward a defined, demanding readership or niche. They will most likely boast strong Web components, if not be exclusively Web-based. A good example of such an operation is Politico.com, which was founded by former Washington Post reporters and has quickly become the source for national political coverage.

This very scenario is among Business Week’s media predictions for 2009:

A sort of shadow media industry is born—properties created and staffed by those pink-slipped in ’08 and ’09. This sets the stage for epic clashes with existing players in ’10 and beyond.

Matter is neither created nor destroyed. The news industry as we know it is slowly (and painfully) deconstructing and reforming itself into something new. I’m hopeful that what we end up with will be stronger, more viable and, more importantly, more suited to the needs of readers and the standards of Good Journalism.

Related

Jason Tolbert’s epic Brummett/Fisher video collection, soon to be revered as the Frost/Nixon of its time, available here in 8 parts. (No joke!)

Who will mourn daily newspapers? – Financial Times

Newsweek to cut staff, slim magazine in makeover – WSJ

A scenario for local news – Jeff Jarvis

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5 Responses

  1. >”So, to me one of the Democrat-Gazette’s great missteps, and the misstep of most other daily newspapers, is not making news content available in ways that are relevant and accessible to a new generation of readers, online and beyond.”

    Just curious here, but which ways are those? The D-G has pored over its online strategy for quite some time, and while they definitely don’t have all the answers, they’re at least profitable.

  2. Personally I think it’s a platform problem, not a content problem. NewsPAPERs may be in trouble, but news organizations are only in trouble as much as they have to restructure in order to become content providers more than solely print publications.

    I think there will always be a need for printed publications, but in the future, they may be subordinate to multi-media platforms (news available across the Net or on phones or on TV with audio/video/text elements).

    And the Ark Times blog is great, but it can’t drill down to the depth and breadth of information the D-G provides with its Ark section every day (obits, cop reports, etc). Those things are of interest to many. The D-G just needs to join the 21st century and learn how to make better use of multi-media in distributing that info.

  3. No. No. No. We need newspapers. We need accountable professionals. We need educated, and reasoned insight. We need time to discern facts and truth.

    Without a legitimate press, America is doomed. I love the internets, but I trust an accountable newspaper more than a race-to-be-first blog.

    Weather the storm, print-people. We need you.

    Just figure out a way to feed the kids via an online version of your craft.

  4. […] ruminating on the quickly deteroriating scene. And in today’s essay, he points out something we noted a few posts ago: the irony that while newspapers are failing at a time when newspaper content — i.e., news — is […]

  5. […] void their print counterparts might leave behind. But it’s a step in the right direction. And as I’ve noted before, we’re likely to see more of these endeavors as newspaper layoffs continue, each focusing on […]

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