I stumbled across an interesting article recently from the Miami Herald about the ongoing struggle to re-invent and re-invigorate the newspaper business. Some great commentary by Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. after news broke that upwards of 190 Herald employees may be let go.
Virtually every newspaper is going through the same thing: shrinking profit margins, declining circulation, staff cutbacks and morale at subterranean levels as journalists struggle to figure out how we can save the American newspaper. But I have come — reluctantly — to believe we can’t. We must blow it up instead. Doing otherwise is like trying to save record albums in an era where music is downloaded to iPods, trying to save film in an era where every camera is digital. People did not stop listening to music or taking pictures, but new methods of doing so evolved, and those who were in the business of selling music or pictures had to adapt or die.
We in the business of selling news have yet to adapt. Yes, every newspaper has a website now. Some, like The Herald, have TV and radio facilities as well. I’m talking about something more: a radical change of focus. We still tend to regard our websites as ancillary to our primary mission of producing newspapers. But I submit that our primary mission is to report and comment upon the news and that it is the newspaper itself that has become ancillary. So maybe we should regard the Internet not as an extra thing we do, but as the core thing we do.