Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Way-points on the path to irrelevance and oblivion

The Harrisburg Patriot-News is no longer a daily newspaper.
New year starts change for The Patriot-News and its readers

They are trying to put a brave face on it and sound positive. The focus is on the opportunity, not the problems.

Behind the scenes, the entire newsroom will also be focused on delivering news at the speed of the Web while making the best use of all the digital tools at our disposal. Over the last few months, we’ve supplied our reporters and photographers with the technology and training they need to be mobile, digital journalists. At the same time, we’ve rolled out a redesigned PennLive.com to provide the best reader experience across our desktop, tablet and mobile sites.


The landscape is littered with failed companies that allowed pride and tradition to get in the way of adapting to the needs of the audience. We didn’t want that to be our fate. That is why we are letting vision, not history, be our guide.

For those of you who are on the fence about our changes and for whom the daily paper means so much, I ask that you give us a try for a few weeks. I believe you will find that The Patriot-News is still the great newspaper our community depends on.

When the changes were first announced, the editor was more open about the economic realities that drove the decision.
Boring and biased is no way to go through life
I would also take issue with the claim that the P-N is a great newspaper.
Why some newspapers deserve to die

In its dotage, the P-N suffers from many of the problems that plague the dinosaur media.

Re-virgining and guild thinking

Kirkpatrick: “What we do is important.”

Krebs: “Journalism is much more a calling than it is a job..”
Like most of the MSM, the Patriot-News skips the whole “journalism of verification” when it comes to journalists and journalism. When they turn their gaze inward, they leave their cynicism behind. Journalists are special people “called” to do important work.

So pay up, chumps.

This is true even when said journalists stop being journalists.

Jeanette Krebs:

It's been a privilege leading The Patriot-News Opinion pages

This is my last column. As with many love affairs, this one is coming to an end. I am leaving The Patriot-News, returning to a position in public relations and advocacy with the Harrisburg-based firm Bravo Group.

Because I have had the rare good fortune of being able to slip between these two worlds, I know there are great and rewarding challenges ahead of me as well. No lack of balls in the air and just a different type of adrenaline rush.

Again, I ask:
How does that re-virgining process work.

Agency problem

Unlike Tina Brown of Newsweek, the people at the P-N have not blamed the Zeitgeist.

Both publications did suffer from some of the same problems. For example, the classic agency problem:

This is a case study in agency theory. The stockholders want Newsweek to maximize the returns it pays to them. The best way to do that is to write a high-quality publication that appeals to a broad audience. The writers and editors are seeking career advancement. You don’t get that appealing to the morons in flyover territory with simplistic bourgeois truth. You get ahead in the media by impressing the media elites, the unofficial campaigners, the reality-based community.

So Newsweek, like many publications, increasingly focused on appealing to a very narrow K-Street/Upper East Side/90210 crowd. That trashed the magazine’s reader base and ruined the company, but it made a lot of journolists into Big Names.

The Agents succeed by gutting the Principals. Tis a twice-told tale.
In the case of the P-N, the editorial page was way out of step with the center-right, gun-owning population of central Pennsylvania. Plus, it periodically felt the need to remind their readers that they were racist.

Commentary: Intolerant public will hinder gun control efforts

Op-ed: Modern day 'slaughter of the innocents' should prompt action

Editorial: Harrisburg and its suburbs need to reacquaint themselves as good neighbors

Editorial: Newtown shooting should prompt safety and gun conversation

This stance did not help it retain subscribers, but it might have helped the career prospects of the people who ran the page.

Heather Long is editorial page editor. 255-8104 or hlong@pennlive.com. Beginning in January, Long will be assistant comment editor for The Guardian.
They really should have taken a page page from the New York Times.

When the Times went looking for a replacement for William Safire, they skipped the castor oil journalism that the P-N loved so much. Instead they placated their core readership:

In 2003, Brooks got a call from New York Times editorial-page editor Gail Collins inviting him to lunch. Collins was looking for a conservative to replace outgoing columnist William Safire, but one who understood how liberals think. “I was looking for the kind of conservative writer that wouldn’t make our readers shriek and throw the paper out the window,” says Collins. “He was perfect.”
Sandusky scandal--who captured the value?

Like Newsweek, the decline of the P-N illustrates the non-synergistic relationship between print and cable news:

The Patriot-News won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Their lead reporter, Sara Ganim, became a fixture on television news. That worked out better for Ganim than for the newspaper that paid her.

Pulitzer Prize winner Sara Ganim leaves Patriot-News to join CNN

Which raises a question I asked years ago:

In essence, they let newspapers bear the cost while ESPN or Nancy Grace shares in the benefit.

(I’ve long found it puzzling that publishers and editors let their reporters give away their expensive product to the competition. Don’t they know about unsold cows and free milk?)

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