Magazine article Editor & Publisher

What Frustrates You about the Newspaper Business?

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

What Frustrates You about the Newspaper Business?

Article excerpt

WANT TO KNOW what's bugging the industry? Ask the men and women who midwife a newspaper day after day about their frustrations. It's the fast line to the consensus of lamentations.

Among the top jeremiads: Where are the young readers? Where are the readers? Newspapers have gotten "too big for their britches." Their arrogance alienates readers. They have forgotten the basics that made them great, they must get back to them. Worried about taking the wrong turn on the information highway. It's tough trying to do more with less; zippered budgets prevent sorely needed hiring. A high-profit business, newspapers should be more interested in buying tomorrow than beating last year.

For more complete details on what some newspaper executives have to say:

Foster Davis, Managing editor St. Louis Post Dispatch

Readership is a frustration. I'd like to get more readers. I've been looking over recent circulation figures and we've dropped about 1.5%. Look at the top 30 list, where I'm sure people are working their guts out, and the figures there are still dropping.

We are still in a business that makes very good profits that much of American commerce envies. I'm worried that if the corporate drive is to remain a high profit business, and we don't reinvest, we may lose the core that we've got.

Trying to predict the future role of newspapers today is like trying to predict the economy. Anyone who claims to be able to predict the economy for more than six months out is a liar.

Another frustration is that in these difficult times we have not hired anyone since February of last year. Managing a newsroom, holding on to what you've got, with the staff you've got while trying to change and evolve is a struggle.

One of our reporters said, "Morale is for kids, we're grown-ups. We have a job to do."

While I'm not going to take the responsibility for someone else's morale, the leadership is responsible for setting a tone that we can do it, and we have to work together to do the things that need to be done. Working with tight budgets teaches you what's important. Sure, I'd like to hire some more people-show me an editor who wouldn't.

Looking ahead, I don't see anybody who can do what newspapers can do. Our franchise is the capacity to gather and organize information and to do it every day. Our franchise rests in the skilled hands of the people who walk into our buildings everyday. And, no matter what golden age of newspapering may be in store for us, there will always be a strong and strengthening need for first class writers, first class editors, first class reporters, illustrators and all the rest.

Newspapers are fundamental to the republic. What people are saying to me is, "Don't ignore us." They are not saying, "Go away!" They raise Cain with us when they think we are not paying enough attention or that our attention is destructive. That's not a market that's disappearing, it's an impassioned bunch of customers. I find that fun, encouraging and invigorating. But, I must admit it's not always fun when I'm getting hell from someone. I love this work!

Andrew Gulley Managing editor/news Boston Herald

I was recently made managing editor, so I can't afford too many frustrations or complaints. I'd like to get more kids and women to read our paper. But, I guess newspapers have all learned how difficult it is to attract those audiences.

The frustration here is a small staff competing against a larger one. We would like to do more and have a few more bodies to do it with. There are areas we'd love to compete in and can't. It's galling. I'd like a higher education reporter, this is a big higher education town and we're not competitive enough there. I'd also like to add at least two medical writers to the one I've got.

The Boston Globe is a bone in our craw as we are in theirs. On any given day they mount a staff two, three, four times the size of ours. …

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