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Newspapers get SOAC’ed

April 13, 2009

Maybe ‘reincarnation’ is a better word

For the School of Arts and Communication Week the changing newspaper business was on top of people’s minds. To kick-off the week, News Tribune Publisher David Zeeck, Puyallup Herald Managing Editor Heather Meier, reporter Monica Guzman and Mast Managing Editor Maren Anderson met for a forum about “The Premature death of Newspapers.”

In fact, the four argued that the statement really isn’t true. Newspapers aren’t dying, but rather changing from what they once were, Guzman said. The transition may be troubling, but it’s not a wake.

“Because newspapers are troubled doesn’t mean they’re dying,” Zeeck said. “We’re in the middle of a 400-year evolution.”

“Invite me when there’s a body to have a wake about it,” he added.

As far as audience, more and more people desire a news source, especially in an online format of some source, Guzman said.

With a strong audience or readership for newspapers there is a way for the business to thrive, but where the revenue will come from and what it will look like isn’t exactly clear yet, she said.

The Internet is the future, in whatever form news finally takes, Guzman said.

“As far as I’m concerned, for the reader and for the writer it’s awesome,” she said. “On the business side we’re still trying to figure it out.”

“Journalism is more alive than it ever has been,” Guzman said.

The hard copy form of a newspaper was may be in danger, but journalism is not, she explained.

Finding a new revenue stream from what use to be reliable, traditional advertising dollars is shrinking. The business is trying to figure out where the money will come from. None of the panelists had a clear answer.

It may come from a click-per-view mechanism, online subscription, targeted online advertising and personalizing news homepages for the reader or a number of other options.

But a change will take place that stabilizes the industry, Zeeck said.

These changes were going to happen anyway. But because of the recession, the transition is taking place over two years, versus ten, he said.

“This is a time to try things,” Guzman said.

The world still needs journalist, she said, and learning all there is about the new ways of reporting is essential, even if there is not a clear vision of what a “newspaper” is going to look like down the road.

Cartoonist thinks the art will survive

Chris Britt, an editorial cartoonist for The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill., said that he sees a place for editorial cartoons, whether newspapers survive in the printed edition, or exclusively online, or a hybrid of both.

Britt came to PLU as part of SOAC Week.

“I think we (cartoonists) can be competitive,” said Britt, who was also an editorial cartoonist for The News Tribune in the 1990s. “And I think you’ll see the trend where more editorial cartoons come back (into the trade).”

Currently, he estimated, there are only 80 editorial cartoons that now draw for newspapers in the U.S.