Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Paper Buoys: Editors Acknowledge Problems but See Reasons for Hope

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Paper Buoys: Editors Acknowledge Problems but See Reasons for Hope

Article excerpt

THE PAST FEW YEARS have not been worry free for the people who edit and publish the nation's 1,533 daily newspapers.

They've wrung hands over all sorts of things, from whether they were losing their readers to how much they had to pay for the paper they use by the ton to put out their product. Prices rose by 75 percent in two years.

But as they gather - editors here, publishers later this month in New York - for their annual conventions, the more optimistic see a glimmer of hope. "My view of it is that there is a lot of angst out there in the newsrooms of America about our future, but it is ill-founded," says William B. Ketter, editor of the Quincy (Mass.) Patriot Ledger. "Our future is very strong as far as I'm concerned," Ketter said. "No ne w medium has ever replaced an existing medium in the history of mass communications. Those who say newspapers are dinosaurs are wrong; newspapers still have a very important role to play in a democratic society." But none is saying the problems have vanished; newspaper people still wonder if newspapers will ever be as important as they once were. They worry about whether the younger generation, bred on television, has lost its appetite, or its ability, to read. They're concerned about newspapers' credibility in an era when what was once dismissed as gossip gets into the news columns. And news executives worry a lot these days about computers as news delivery systems. Will people give up getting news from the paper, and if so, who will supply it - and how will the supplier make money? Even Ketter, ending his term as president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, finds reasons for concern. For one thing, he sees newspapers getting tarred with the reputation of shock-trash journalism on TV or in supermarket racks. "What the public says is, `We like your journalism values - accountability, accuracy, access, thoroughness,' " Ketter said. "But the perception is that we don't practice them very well." Asked about the chief concerns of editors as they meet this year, Ketter listed three: "the question of trust between the public and the press"; the conversion of newspapers into "electronic organizations while maintaining our traditional values in that uncertain world"; and how to make the newspaper more relevant to the next generation of readers. …

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