Tuesday, July 07, 2009

News-Press Staying Put On The Printed Page

There was a bit of a shake-up down at the L.A. Times last week, with the number two guy on the masthead being shown the door and sports editor Randy Harvey assuming expanded duties.

Many news outlets are packaging their content for mobile devices, the News-Press isn't among them.

I found the explanation for the changes given by Times Editor Russ Stanton to be most interesting.

To compete and thrive, our newsroom must operate as a fully functional 24/7 operation, feeding print, the Web, mobile devices, television, radio, Twitter, Facebook and anything else that helps us increase -- and better connect with -- our audience. . . The Sports staff has consistently led the newsroom in broadening our coverage beyond print, and Randy has overseen that effort by sharpening our focus to the things that matter the most to our readers, and then owning those areas in every medium in which our readers consume news.

Sounds to me like that's a fancy way of saying, "We're moving our ass to the Internet."

Well, at least at The Times they know the ship is sinking and they're heading for the life boats, which is more than I can say for News-Press owner Wendy McCaw.

While other newspapers are looking for ways to expand their audiences by going where the readers are instead of waiting for the readers of find their product tossed at the end of their driveways or in a vending machine, the News-Press is evidently doing little to broaden its coverage beyond print and make itself available on mobile devices, Twitter, Facebook or anything else that helps them better connect with their audience.

It's not that McCaw is merely indifferent to the Internet and all of the social networking that has come out of it. She downright disdains it. Blogs, including this one, are banned from the computers in the newsroom as are the websites of competitors such as The Independent and The Daily Sound.

And of course the newspress.com website remains locked down tighter than a submerged submarine.

Even under the best of circumstances (and under McCaw's ownership the last three years have been anything but the best of circumstances) the paper's circulation and readership would be dwindling.

But as another Times staffer, James Rainey, pointed out when he was here to take part in the recent future of journalism panel, there is still a demand for what newspapers have to offer. The problem is, more and more readers are fulfilling their need for news from the web rather than from the printed page.

Will Wendy try to increase readership and pursue the readers by seeking them out in the mediums where they consume news or will she stubbornly hold out hope that they will return to the printed page? My guess is, she refuses to abandon the sinking ship.

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For the last three years, the News-Press has been relying on wire service copy to make up for a lack of local news. Local news coverage is better now than it was a year ago, and much better than it was two years ago. But it's nowhere near as comprehensive as it was three years ago before Wendy made working conditions intolerable for the editors and much of the staff.

Anyway, there figures to be less wire service copy in the paper these days. I've learned that effective July 1, the News-Press stopped receiving The New York Times wire service. That leaves the paper's editors with only the Associated Press and McClatchy wire services to fill their sections.

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The News-Press/NLRB hearings resume this morning at Santa Barbara College of the Law and are scheduled to continue through Wednesday of the following week.
© 2009 by Craig Smith and www.craigsmithsblog.com