Sunday, November 9, 2008

Read It In The Newspaper, While You Can...

It used to be a Sunday tradition. Bridget and I would drive to Fulton and stop and get a Commercial Appeal, Jackson Sun or Paducah Sun and later that day, we could peruse the paper and enjoy the articles. How sad the other day, when we drove to town and saw the Commercial Appeal racks turned around and later, removed completely. They quit delivering to Fulton and many areas in West Tennessee too.

I read an interesting piece in the New York Post lately, about the decline of newspapers nationwide and how it could also affect Local TV Newsrooms.

Here's a quote: "Most local newscasts have for years taken much or most of their hard news from newspapers. The freshest genuine news that local TV newscasts now provide are weather forecasts, unless you count updates and previews of "American Idol," "Survivor" and "Dancing With The Stars."

I used to get asked all the time, "How much of the TV news comes straight from the newspaper?" The correct answer is, quite a bit. First thing in the morning, producers scan the local newspapers to get story ideas and see what they missed. Also, local newspaper editors make sure to watch the local TV news in the evening, to see if THEY missed anything. Nothing to be ashamed of, on either side, as it makes good sense to check out other outlets and see if you missed on any stories.

Is there professional jealousy between print and TV? Yes, but more so among some print reporters. There is one reporter at the Paducah Sun, whom I respect greatly, who makes no secret in his columns about his dislike for television news. The ironic part, of course, is that the Paducah television station and biggest newspaper are owned by the same company. These days, both, like so many companies in other businesses, are feeling the pinch of the current economy. That begs the question, why don't they combine their resources? I've wondered this for years, as it would enhance both's ability to cover the local news.

I was always told that the owner, at that time, wanted competition between the local TV and newspaper since there was no other real competition for either in town, and it benefited the readers and viewers to have that healthy competition. It made good sense for many years and worked well for readers and viewers. These days though, the game has changed. First of all, there IS more competition these days, from a number of sources. Newspapers nationwide are hurting to the point that they're contracting their delivery areas, as subscriber numbers go down. The old joke goes to look at the obituaries, and that's how many fewer newspapers will be sold that day. On the television side, the internet has eaten into viewership, like cable television, and further sliced up the pool of consumers. More younger people get THEIR news, if they get it at all, over the internet, from a myriad of sources. Viewer habits are much different than they were even 5 years ago. Maybe that's why people still come up to me almost every day and say, "I watch you every morning!"

Are reporters dumber than they used to be? That's a tough one. I know I'm a much better reporter/meteorologist and overall smarter person than I was back when I started, for sure. Although I was always honest and tried as hard as I could to present the true story. Nowadays, when I work with some young reporters, I'm amazed at how hard it is to get them to comprehend the facts of a story. Maybe that was ME so many years ago, or maybe it's today's news reporters aren't too bright. I'm not sure! One thing I AM sure of, is that most reporters are much more interested in doing a good, factual story, and not as much interested in the company's profit margin, sometimes, much to the chagrin of the newspapers, or TV stations managers. Also, older, more experienced reporters and meteorologists ARE much better than younger ones. The same holds true, of course, for carpenters, attorneys, truckdrivers, matter your trade, you know what I'm talking about.

Newspapers and TV Stations are still powerful, but only a fraction of what they once were and less powerful each day, and the trend promises to continue, unless they learn how to harness the internet and consumer habits of today. If they combined their newsrooms and advertising, they could cut costly management positions, cover the news much more effectively and increase their bottom lines, however both are saddled with managers who understand print, or TV, but not both, and precious fewer who understand how to profitably produce information on the world wide web, which is where it's ALL going. Some newspapers and television stations have already combined their operations, and more probably will in the future. Those which don't learn how to adapt won't survive. I hope they do survive. We need reliable news from trusted, experienced, professional journalists, more than ever.

1 comment:

Hula Girl at Heart said...

They're already so far behind.....The internet is steamrolling them, and they don't even know it.