Introduction: By Jan Schaffer
Pew Center for Civic Journalism
Journalism is no longer monolithic. No one size fits all. Sure, all journalists
share core values - accuracy, independence, fairness and objectivity. And most
share some aspirations: They want to uncover wrongdoing, spotlight injustices,
make a difference in their communities - even help community life go well.
But they no longer share identical goals for their news organizations. Increasingly,
large national news organizations define "news" differently than smaller, regional
news organizations do. And, regional newspapers, empowered by technological
advances, are navigating future strategies that are very different from national
newspapers. They even see some different roles to play in their communities.
In part, national newspapers deal with a demographic community, a community
of elites, perhaps, or of special interests. Regional news organizations, on
the other hand, more often focus on geographic communities - towns or metro
areas that contain many smaller neighborhoods or ethnic groups or communities
We invited three news leaders who are building these roadmaps to tell us where
they are heading over the next five years. How will they position their newspapers
to be vital to the community and successful in the industry?
Be specific, we said. Give us five goals for the next five years. And, for
starters, we will presume that we all embrace vigorous reporting and quality
Bill Keller, Managing Editor of The New York Times, a national newspaper
and the best journalistic brand in the world, sees a search for more interesting
niches, national zoning, growth here and abroad - all leveraging The Times'
tremendous base of talent.
The Tribune Company, on the other hand, is constructing a powerful national
network. Ann Marie Lipinski, The Chicago Tribune's new top editor, plans
to build on corporate synergies and strong storytelling. "Great newspapers will
thrive not by imitating other great newspapers but by speaking in a cadence
unique to their readers and unique to their markets."
While at McClatchy, an unabashedly local media company, Chief Executive Gary
Pruitt plans to leverage each newspaper's biggest asset: Being the sole mass
medium in each of its markets. He envisions supplementing news with direct marketing,
niche products and direct mail. McClatchy Web sites will be news venues, database
caches and community portals - all guiding us through the data smog and "moving
us from the Information Age to the Knowledge Age."
All three are bullish about the future of newspapers. And all saw newspapers
embracing a critical civic role. Says Keller, "I think that an ability to define
communities across lines of interest and ideology is the best reason to believe
that newspapers - however the words are actually delivered - will survive."
The New York Times
A little more than a year ago, the digital division of The Times had
a party at a downtown sushi emporium to celebrate the acquisition of a software
design company called The Buzz. At this soiree, Joe Lelyveld, the executive
editor of The Times, was introduced to the head of The Buzz, who looked
at Joe with an expression of pure wonder and said, "This is great, I've never
met a content person before."
And I don't think that he meant, "Boy, that's the coolest line of work he
could imagine." I think he meant something like: "People still do that?"
A year or so ago, the digital guys had all the juju in the media business.
They were the creative, risk-taking, future-building, paradigm-smashing visionaries.
They moved at Internet speed. And, by implication, we were old media - pathetic
figures who stood in the rear-view mirror of progress, bleating something irrelevant
like, "Yes, but how will you make money at it?"
It seemed, then, that the only salvation for us sad-sack content providers
was to rush eagerly into this new world of convergence. A world in which newspapers,
magazines, television and the Internet all flow together, somehow, into something
that nobody could quite explain but in which everyone passionately believed.
In the conventional wisdom, this was a world in which news consumers would
be served by a couple of great media conglomerates, reporters would become interchangeable,
multi-tasking gerbils and the news would become digitized video nuggets accessible
on your Palm Pilot. The defining intelligence of American journalism would be
Yahoo. As my English wife would say, Ya-bloody-hoo.
In the past year, a number of things have become clear about this emerging
world and I hasten to assure you I believe there is an emerging world
and this is not going to be just the whining of a Luddite. One thing that's
happened is that the markets have rendered a verdict on new media as a business
proposition and the verdict is, to say the least, skeptical. The market would
like to see some revenues, if you please. And until it does, it's going to hold
you, or at least your stock options, underwater. That's one reason that The
Times' plan to issue a tracking stock to underwrite our digital operations
has been put on hold.
For a while yet, new media will be dependent on the kindness of old media.
Another thing that's happened is that content has begun to gain more respect.
There's a growing realization out there that an awesome distribution network
is only valuable if you have something of value to distribute. I don't believe
for a second that AOL bought Time Warner just for its cable operation.
Perhaps the most significant flaw in the conventional wisdom was that the
fascination with the conglomerates in the industry, the constant attention focused
on mergers, joint ventures and synergies has somewhat disguised an equally important
trend in the other direction.
I don't pretend to be a media visionary, but it seems clear to me that there
is an accelerating "nichification," if you will, of the media.
The proliferation of cable, the 1,000 flowers of the Internet, the first stirrings
of broadband, the new program-it-yourself technology like TiVo - all of these
things are creating countless niche alternatives to the big network, mass-market,
prime-time Goliaths of news.
Scale still matters of course. It matters a lot if you're trying to show a
return on investments. But scale isn't everything. So rather than a small number
of media conglomerates jockeying for the faceless masses and offering the same
intellectual junk food, I imagine there will be, more than ever, intense competition
to find interesting niches and occupy them.
For a paper like The Times, which is in a considerably better situation
than most other papers, this presents both threats and opportunities. The threat
is that our readership will be nibbled away by niche publications, namely online.
But the opportunities are for us to use our tremendous base of talent - reporters,
editors, critics and columnists - to move into new niches and serve our existing
market in new ways.
Far from finding this prospect alarming, I think of it as a cause for celebration,
full of promise. We've defined our niche as people like the loyal readers of
The New York Times - curious, educated, engaged, culturally alert. You
know who you are.
We think this is a pretty big niche, much bigger than the few million who
now read The Times. The kind of journalism we do may be distributed in
the form of ink-on-paper or in the form of bits and pixels, but I don't foresee
a day when it won't have a rather large market. On the contrary, I think the
proliferation of raw, untested information sources on the Internet puts an added
premium on what we do, which is to assign smart people to sort out the riot
of information and make sense of it.
Where will we be in five years? I should say, I suppose, that all of this
is just me speaking and not some authorized voice of The New York Times.
In five years, for starters, I have no doubt that there will be newspapers
printed on the byproducts of forest management. I'm quite confident that our
circulation will be substantially greater than the 1.1 million daily and the
1.7 million Sunday that we now sell. Growth will be more dramatic outside of
the New York region as we continue to open new print sites across the country.
We have about 15 sites now outside of the New York area but we'll also be growing
in this region.
This rosy scenario is not necessarily true of newspapers as a whole. Some
of our growth, sadly, is cannibalizing the readership of local and regional
papers that no longer give demanding readers what they want.
In the past few years, The Times has prospered as a newspaper, I believe,
by avoiding false choices. Are we a national newspaper or a regional newspaper?
Well, we're both and we must be both. We've added reporters and subscribers
in both arenas. And this is important because we derive a lot of our identity,
our energy, our authority from having roots in the financial and cultural capital
of the world.
Are we a time-sensitive, breaking-news organization? Or are we producers of
thoughtful, in-depth stories? Well, we're both and we have to be both. To do
things in-depth you need people covering the day-to-day stuff, following the
flow of events. So we've invested in more reporters on the ground, and we've
invested in the kind of time-consuming, labor-intensive projects that most papers
can't afford to do.
In five years, our newsroom will have changed into a more multipurpose workplace,
continuing a trend that's already begun. We'll extend our journalistic franchise
more extensively into the Internet and television, but we will maintain a distinction
between quick reports that satisfy an immediate appetite to know what's going
on and the deeper work that demands more time.
In five years, we may have moved selectively into some kinds of national zoning,
either by region or by subject matter. Our digital news operation already sends
e-mails to readers tailored to their interests. This has become standard procedure
in news on the Web. We send out e-mails on international news, books, cinema
and technology for people who want those subjects.
Zoning a national print newspaper is a much more difficult proposition and
one with some serious journalistic and business perils. But I can imagine that
features will be added or emphasized to suit local interests or even categories
of readers- Pacific Rim news for the West, Latin American and Caribbean news
for the South, college news for campus towns and more localized entertainment
In five years, I foresee a big growth in our international presence. We've
begun experimenting with branded inserts into foreign newspapers, something
that works for The Wall Street Journal. We'll expand our distribution
of television products and, of course, the Internet is ipso facto a global
In five years, we'll be a significantly bigger presence in television. We
now produce documentaries and some collaborative ventures, most recently with
ABC's 20/20 and Nightline. Next year, we'll have upwards of 35
hours of our own produced programming on the air, which is not very much but
it's three times as much as we did this year. You don't have to be a network
or attached to a network to develop a significant presence on TV.
In five years, we expect to be, as we are now by most measures, the dominant
newspaper site on the Internet. And I hope we'll be one of a handful of news
sites, including the TV sites, that dominate the landscape of news and information
on the Web.
My colleague, Martin Nisenholtz, who runs our digital division, says that
in five years we'll be a little bit closer to a time when all information in
every format will be available everywhere to everyone. He is a media visionary.
In five years, that will be a comparatively small elite with this kind of
access, but we'll have a sample to study and will be able to see how that changes
the landscape of the news business.
We're already playing with a variety of ways to compliment and exploit our
in-depth news reports online. These include wireless news alerts, webcasts designed
specifically for broadband users and a lot of information services tailored
to the needs and interests of individual users.
The fragmentation of the news audience and the proliferation of niches have
a potentially scary side. Maybe this is a romantic notion but I think there
are other things that humans want from their content providers besides a periodic
delivery of news about subjects that already interest them.
I think audiences want to plug into a social experience, to look in on what
the neighbors are up to. I think they want to plug into a civic experience to
get a sense of what's important for them to know about the world and their own
country. I think they want some serendipity, some novelty and some surprise.
And I think that an ability to define communities across lines of interest
and ideology is the best reason to believe that newspapers - however the words
are actually delivered - will survive.
Senior Vice President and Editor
From the time my daughter, now 6, could speak she would play newspaper. She
invented a newspaper called Bostona - for reasons neither her father
nor I have ever been able to determine - where she pretended to work as a reporter.
One day when she was about 3 1/2, I came home to find that she had been promoted
to managing editor, until recently my title at the Tribune. "Well, congratulations."
I said. "And what does the managing editor of Bostona do?"
"Oh," she said in her most world-weary voice, "I talk to people about their
I think of that answer often and find it as worthy a description of my job,
and perhaps that of my fellow panelists, as any I have ever heard. Dwindling
circulation, rising newsprint costs, increased competition for staff, declining
ad revenue. And that's not even talking about the journalistic challenges.
But with all that, I remain an editor who is bullish and enthusiastic about
the future of newspapers. It turns out I'm at the right company, one that recently
spent over $6 billion to buy a group of newspapers, including Newsday
and the Los Angeles Times, betting the future on a medium seemingly more
aligned with Gutenberg than Gates. But a year into the dot-com decline, ink-on-paper
is still looking pretty good.
I'd like to highlight a few things that will help keep newspapers looking
pretty good. So five of those, if I may.
The first: one of my favorite photographs in the Tribune archives is
a shot of Clarence Darrow making his closing argument at the Scopes monkey trial.
In the frame is a lone radio microphone with the call letters WGN. That stood
for "World's Greatest Newspaper," the late Colonel Robert McCormick's brazen
claim for his beloved Chicago Tribune.
McCormick would probably regard a woman as editor of the Tribune about
as highly as I regarded his use of a printing press to advance a suspect political
agenda, but I'll give him this: For a conservative Midwestern newspaper publisher,
he was a great technological visionary.
While his fellow publishers were banding together to lobby against the upstart
medium called radio, McCormick created a radio station. And when television
- an even greater threat - came along, McCormick went and got himself one of
those stations, too, branding it with the same call letters.
I recount this to explain the bemusement with which I and my Tribune
colleagues regard questions about new technology overtaking print. As focused
as we are on growing and nurturing the newspaper, we also understand that each
medium has a role to play in both our corporate and our journalistic successes.
If you visit me in Chicago, your trip from O'Hare Airport to my Michigan Avenue
office will take you past the WGN television studios on the northwest side of
the city, the Chicago Tribune printing plant on the near west side of
the city, the WGN radio studio on the first floor of Tribune Tower, the Tribune
Internet offices down the hall from me, and the Tribune's own Chicagoland
Television Cable cameras right outside my door.
This week, a Tribune investigative series on mob influence in the Chicago
police department that was a year in the making by one of our finest investigative
reporters found a home in most of those Tribune venues, significantly expanding
the audience for a brilliant story beyond our newspaper subscribers.
My bosses and the gurus on Wall Street can and have made the business case
for what is glibly known as "synergy," but let me make the journalist's case.
Finding things out and telling people what we know is the essence of what we
do. McCormick understood this and, like him, newsrooms need to seek new ways
to tell their stories, both within their news pages and beyond, in ways that
deepen and do not compromise our social purpose.
Secondly, a couple of months ago an editor from a well-known daily newspaper,
which may or may not publish in our nation's capital, came to Chicago and took
me to lunch. He was researching a book about the newspaper industry and wanted
to talk to me about the Tribune. He asked about staff levels and why
they weren't exactly the same as at his newspaper. He asked about the A-section
and why the space configurations were different from his newspaper. And there
was a similar line of questioning about the newspaper's Internet operations
and editorial ratios.
By the end of it, all I could think of was that great musical question posed
by Professor Henry Higgins, "Tell me why can't a woman be more like a man?"
The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times
are all great and wonderful newspapers, none of which is ideal for the readers
of Chicago. Just as the Tribune would be presumably ill-matched to the
needs of those markets.
There is such a sameness across the land in the ways in which newspapers are
both good and bad - the monotony of syndicated columnists, no matter how talented;
the gray and pat coverage from Washington or the campaign; the predictability
of the portfolios divided into world, nation, metro, business and sports.
Great newspapers will thrive not by imitating other great newspapers but by
speaking in a cadence unique to their readers and unique to their markets.
There are certain core values that all great journalistic enterprises must
embrace - honesty, fairness, accuracy. And those are not geographically bound.
But there are many ways to achieve journalistic excellence and few of them have
anything to do with parroting the other guy.
The third point is a short one and let me try this out on you. I'm kind of
grappling with the language myself, but it's something I've been thinking about.
I attended an interminable two-day - it felt like two weeks - conference on
journalistic excellence. There was a half a sentence up on the board which stated:
"The next great newspaper will..."
And all these answers were flying up. There was one that struck me and that
I've thought about and it may be the only thing I wrote down over the two days.
One person finished the sentence this way: "The next great newspaper will need
to personify itself as the number-one citizen in the community, the one who
beats up the bully, who cries at the tragedies, who provides the big ideas to
create economic development, who is the school teacher/tutor for children when
their schools fail them."
I'm not a big fan of what has come to be called public journalism. There's
some redundancy in that to me. I'm not sure I even understand what it means.
But I do like this notion of the newspaper as the leading civic voice of a community.
In 1993, the Chicago Tribune undertook a yearlong series of stories
called "Killing Our Children," which set out to chronicle the homicide of every
child under the age of 14 in our six-county metropolitan area. We published
more than 200 stories before the end of the year, the work of 150 reporters
What you felt over the course of that year was a sense of a steamship turning
course, of an entire city becoming engaged around a single important subject.
The Tribune did the same thing with a series of stories on the death
penalty in Illinois that resulted in a pro-death-penalty governor calling a
moratorium on the death penalty in our state.
Looking forward, I look back to those and know that the next great newspaper,
and our newspaper if it will continue to be great, needs to find more of those
occasions, more of those moments where it can stand up and either gather up
all the lone, lonely voices out there speaking independently on a subject or
put an end to something that nobody else is talking about. In that sense, it
does become the leading citizen of a community, no matter how small or how large
The third thing, and many people in this room know him, comes from Bill Kovach.
Ten years ago, when I was crossing to the dark side from reporting to editing,
becoming metro editor of the Tribune, I got a long and wonderful letter
which I keep in my top desk drawer from Bill Kovach, who was a great newspaper
man and at the time was curator of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard.
He gave me many, many wonderful pieces of advice. One I want to talk about
today, because I think it's more prescient now than it was at the time. He wrote,
"You are now a manager, and under the rules of the game as it's played today,
you are expected to be a businessperson as well as a journalist. You can't escape
that but you can avoid thinking like a businessperson."
"You can, in fact, turn it to your advantage and the advantage of the news
department and your readers. You can do this by listening to the business people,
their problems and their plans. More importantly, learn more about their problems
than they know. Usually they react more than they think. Use every
tool at your command to learn about circulation in your area and about advertising.
Be informed so you can't be misled or bulldogged into doing something you know
Underlying all of this is the fact that, in the modern world of journalism,
there are many voices promoting, protecting, defending, and expanding the commercial
interests of the newspaper. Only one voice represents our First Amendment rights.
There are many times I have longed for the simplicity of my predecessors'
lives - editorships free of business realities. They thought it was tough to
compete with six different newspapers in town, all of which were being read
by millions of people reading three and four newspapers a day. I'd take that
on any day.
As Bill noted 10 years ago, that's an unrealistic notion any longer, and most
editors I know have become, if not quite the experts in circulation and advertising
exigencies that Kovach envisioned, smart enough on the subjects to hold their
What so many of us have failed at is the cross-training, the education that
goes the other way. The cross-training that might have prevented, say, the Staples
Center incident at the Los Angeles Times. At the Tribune, we have
recently begun something called news disciplines - two- and three-day training
sessions on journalistic values that are mandatory for every company executive,
from the chairman on down.
Every day a good editor walks through the doors prepared to teach and lead.
And that leadership, in the coming five years and beyond, will be just as relevant
outside the newsroom as it is inside. An editor's ability and interest in articulating
the journalistic mission to non-journalists may be the most important business
contribution and journalistic contribution we can make in the coming years.
The fifth one, and this is an old-fashioned one, but it's the everything-old-is-new-again
and is, maybe, the most important thing from a day-to-day editing perspective.
When a reporter goes home at the end of the day and her husband asks what she
did, she may well respond that she wrote a story. But in most cases, that would
be a lie.
We write lots and lots of reports and lots and lots of accounts, but we rarely
write newspaper stories, things that we would define from our earliest reading
experience as having beginnings, middles and ends, characters, plots and other
tools of engagement. We all recognize those when we hear them. We read them
to our kids every day, but we very rarely read them in our own newspapers.
Last year on a Monday in mid-August, nearly 20,000 more people than usual
bought a copy of the Chicago Tribune in Chicago. There was no pressing
news that day. God knows, our city's sorry baseball teams had done nothing to
draw readers to the newsstands.
The reason for the circulation spike was part two of a four-part series that
recounted a year-old story of the shooting death of a rookie Chicago police
officer and the toll that his death had taken on his partner and the police
Although it was a shooting that was well-reported at the time, the series,
"Partners in Peril," offered a brilliantly told reconstruction of the drama
playing out beneath the surface of the news headlines - a gripping tale of a
naive cop's fantasy of police work set against the reality of urban crime.
It was a newspaper story with a beginning, a middle and an end and a cast
of characters as riveting as those found in fiction. A human drama so engaging
for readers that even Sunday-only subscribers from the Chicago Tribune
felt compelled to buy the paper throughout the week to read the resolution.
One reader sent us a letter describing a scene he witnessed that Monday morning.
He wrote, "I sat in stunned silence at a restaurant on West Randolph Street.
I had bought the Tribune to catch the second part of your story and was
reading intently when I looked up and saw different customers reading the same
article. I tried to follow their eyes and then it dawned on me that there was
this total hush in the room. This was usually a very noisy place at 6:30 in
"I saw the owner of the restaurant sitting at his usual table. He looked up
at me and asked if it weren't the saddest story about this policeman."
I replied, "Yes, it is the saddest story I ever read."
Not everything we report can or should deserve such treatment, but we need
to get much better in the coming five years - and the five years beyond that
and the five beyond that - at recognizing the right opportunity. Reporting and
story telling, the oldest, most old-fashioned tools in our tool belt, can silence
a downtown diner on a busy Monday morning.
President and Chief Executive Officer
The McClatchy Company
This has been an interesting year for newspapers. We've seen the Tribune Company
buy Times Mirror, Gannett has bought Central Newspapers Inc. and we've had more
consolidation than in any other year in the history of the newspaper business.
People have come to believe that mid-sized media companies with regional newspapers
cannot survive. That our position is untenable. That the position of mid-sized
newspapers or regional newspapers is destined to decline.
We disagree with that as a company. We plan to survive - not only survive,
but thrive - through a combination of business savvy and journalistic commitment.
You heard from three very different companies, The New York Times,
a national paper, the best newspaper and best journalistic brand in the world.
The Tribune Company, which has created the spine of a national network. Maybe
the full skeletal and nervous system aren't complete, but I don't underestimate
At McClatchy, we don't have any national pretensions at all. Our future resides
in 10 local markets, such as Minneapolis, Raleigh and Sacramento. In each of
these markets, which are growing one-third faster than the national average,
we're the leading local media company. Newspapers are our core business but
we supplement with direct marketing and, finally and importantly, the leading
local Web site.
Newspapers are a funny business, aren't they? People have been predicting
their demise for the past several decades. They've always been wrong and I think
they're wrong today. But we all know the evidence and it sounds compelling:
- Circulation is declining at newspapers around the country. At McClatchy,
we've had 15 consecutive years of circulation growth, so I don't think you
need to take it as inevitable that circulation will decline. But as an industry,
circulation is declining.
- The number of other media outlets is exploding and growing. The number of
TV stations, cable stations, radio stations, magazines, weekly newspapers,
Web sites, skywriters probably, are just growing like crazy.
- The number of daily newspapers is declining - the only major medium that's
- And newspapers as a medium are losing advertising share to other media.
So, seemingly, the inescapable conclusion of all that is that newspapers are
in decline, if not dying. But I could take these same data and reach the exact
opposite conclusion. I think the financial and empirical evidence would support
As other media outlets proliferate, their audiences are fragmenting and each
individual outlet is actually losing market share. The overall medium may be
gaining share but individual outlets are actually losing share.
Newspapers are less subject to that fragmentation because there's generally
only one daily newspaper in each market. I know New York is a larger, bigger
place. But in our markets, there's one daily newspaper in each market so it's
less subject to that kind of fragmentation.
Guess what? We're the sole remaining mass medium in each of our local markets.
And our lead over the number-two media outlet, which is usually a network-affiliate
TV station, is actually growing.
So we may lose share as an industry to TV over time but on a revenue-per-outlet
basis, if you take the total revenue and divide it by the number of outlets,
newspapers are doing quite well and, in fact, better than most TV stations.
Maybe an example will help. When Seinfeld was the number-one program
in America in 1995, it had a big share of audience. But that share of audience
20 years earlier, in 1975, would not have placed it in the top 20 shows on TV.
It would have been the 21st most popular show in the United States in 1975.
And 1995 was the year Seinfeld had its largest audience share.
It would have been right behind a show called Dukes of Hazzard. I didn't
know if anyone in a sophisticated New York audience would acknowledge that they've
ever heard of a show called Dukes of Hazzard, a show about people in
the South running around in jacked-up cars.
It shows you the fragmentation. I told that story to our papers in South Carolina
and they looked at me dumbfounded and said, "So big deal, Dukes of Hazzard
is a much bigger show than Seinfeld."
You do have to know your market. The example didn't work for them.
But there are huge marketing advantages that come from being the sole remaining
mass medium in any market. It becomes more important than ever for newspapers
to maintain or grow their circulation, because it's the key differentiating
aspect for newspapers compared to all other media.
Also, mass media status not only serves a business purpose but an important
public service aspect of bringing cohesion to a community, which otherwise might
not have a common basis for civil discourse or community action because there's
no other institution that has that same reach in each local market.
But you know, as bullish as we are about newspapers, we also know newspapers
aren't enough anymore.
We've got to supplement the mass reach of the newspaper with the targeted
reach of direct marketing, using niche products and direct mail. This is not
very glamorous work and you're not going to win any Pulitzers doing this.
I think it was Oscar Wilde who said you don't destroy what you love; what
you love destroys you. And if anyone ought to know, it's Oscar Wilde, right?
But if we focus solely on producing quality newspapers with big advertising,
because that's what we love, we're going to lose share and we're going to decline.
We've got to do some of that nitty-gritty direct marketing work to preserve
our economic ability to do the quality journalistic work.
So the paradox is: I've got to compete at the low end to preserve the quality
of our top end.
And finally, of course, the third aspect of being a leading media company
in each of these markets is to have the leading local Internet site. Everyone
has a different view of what the Internet will bring and what it will be.
Last year, we had Kevin Kelly, an editor of Wired magazine, speak to
our editors and publishers. I asked him if he thought the Internet was going
to be like TV, a powerful medium with a tremendous impact on our society? Or
did he think it was going to be even more important, like Gutenberg's movable
type, and transform society as we know it? I figured he would take the latter
I underestimated him. He said, "I don't think either. I think the Internet
is the most important invention since the invention of fire."
I told him I didn't think fire was invented, I think we discovered fire, that
nature or God invented fire. But if you're an editor of Wired magazine,
the Internet probably is fire, right? That's the biggest thing ever.
That same day I read a column by Dave Barry in The Miami Herald. He
wrote that the Internet was the most important communications innovation since
the introduction of call-waiting.
So those were the two extremes - call-waiting or fire. We, as a company, kind
of take the middle course, that broad middle course. We think the Internet is
going to be a very powerful and viable consumer medium. But at McClatchy we
have no national pretensions about the Internet. It's purely a local game for
us. We're not going to compete with AOL or Yahoo or MSN. We're going to have
the leading local Web site by any and every measure - revenue, traffic, quality.
And I'm not sure how lucrative that space is going to be. We're losing money
to date. But there's starting to be a there there. We've got about $17
million in Internet revenue this year and it will grow to about $25 million
next year. By Internet standards, that's starting to be pretty good. Both Tribune
and the New York Times Company are far ahead of us, although the companies are
working together on their Internet strategies.
But we come to this game with big advantages on the local Internet side. We've
got the biggest newsroom, by far, in our markets. We've got the largest sales
force on the advertising side. We've got existing advertiser relationships.
We've got a profitable classified base that we can leverage onto the Internet.
We've got the promotional capability of the newspaper to push that Internet
All of those work to our advantages locally for the Internet. The combination
of these three factors give us strong growth potential in our markets and an
advantage over the other media companies.
But let's talk a little about what journalistic strategies are going to be
employed given that Internet competition. You've got to look at how people use
the Internet first, I think.
Number one is communication. That's still the killer app on the Internet -
e-mail, chat, instant messaging. It's the number-one use of the Internet.
Second, people seek news and information. Importantly for me here, data show
that 21% say their top activity is finding local news and information; 63% of
Internet users say that seeking local news and information is very or somewhat
important to them. We need to hold onto that.
And of course, third in Internet use, is e-commerce, which is beyond the scope
of my talk today but I can tell you it underscores the importance of newspapers
doing well in classifieds.
Strategies emerge from that Internet empirical data. We need to take advantage
of people's desire to communicate and connect to one another.
As newspaper companies, we were unable to do that in the past. Talk radio
did it - kind of people pooling their ignorance. But what we hope to have are
forums, live interviews and chat rooms to elevate the level of debate both on
the Internet site driving to the paper and back.
Also, we will do more and more work in community publishing and self-publishing
as we allow any bona fide non-profit group, from the symphony to the PTA to
kids' soccer teams, to post information, schedules, bulletins, and have forums
on our sites.
On the news gathering and information side, the Internet also gives us options
that we never had previously. We don't think it's going to be terribly viable
long-term just to put the newspaper online. I think it's going to devalue the
print product and it doesn't play to what the Internet does well. When it comes
to providing an overview of the important events and the serendipity, the newspaper
is the diamond and the Internet is the cubic zirconia.
The Internet does a lot of things better than newspapers but you've got to
be selective. Simply posting the newspaper online is not the way to go.
However, we must get away from the once-a-day news cycle and think more in
terms of 24/7, putting breaking news, shorter news and headline news on the
Internet. That's how people are using the Internet on a daily basis in their
jobs, to get little bits of information - stock quotes, breaking news, all of
that. We've got to be there 24 hours, seven days a week and break the once-a-day
Also, e-mail alerts and personalized e-mail papers based on individual interests
are becoming more and more important.
Databases are going to become increasingly important because you can use the
Internet for the quick headline hit of the day or you can delve into very deep
research. And we have access to lots of public records, lots of archives - databases
that will provide information beyond the scope of what's available in the printed
newspaper and provide greater access to such information as schools test scores
and housing prices.
We've got to move even beyond news sites and create local portals that do
all the things that Yahoo does nationally but we do locally, offering that wide
array of services that people find useful on the Internet.
We partner with local TV stations. We partner with local radio stations. We
work together on a portal site. The New York Times has a great one in
Boston, Boston.com. But we offer more than entertainment on these sites. We
have headline news, entertainment guides, news, dining guides, Web search, local
search, business directories, mapping and free e-mail. So we'll have two sites:
a portal site and a news site.
But I'll tell you, the real revolution over the next five years will be the
transition of analog to digital. All information is going digital. Everything
is going to bits. When information goes to bits, it can be delivered very easily
to all kinds of different platforms. There are people constantly working, feeding
digital information into all kinds of different platforms - PDAs, pagers, cell
phones and computers. It's easy, it's streaming and it's in the air around us
right now as we speak.
Eventually it's going to be in us, I think, as we see a blurring of man and
machine, but not in the next five years.
I do think newspapers are going to be around too. They're going to be maintained
as a mass-reach vehicle. It will be ever more valuable to maintain that mass
reach as everything else proliferates, for business reasons and public service
But we also think the print product is going to become much more utilitarian,
serving as kind of a guide through this data smog.
One of the most valuable newspaper services in the future will be limiting
the range of information that readers need to explore by sorting and prioritizing
better than and more explicitly than we have done before.
I don't think the future of newspapers is mundane and utilitarian. At the
same time we're guiding and directing, newspapers are going to have to provide
increasingly sophisticated journalism to set us apart from the ubiquitous, commodity
headline stories that are everywhere.
This places a premium on reporters and editors knowing what to focus on and
how to get beneath the obvious and how to tell stories compellingly. As an industry,
we've talked for some time about our relative advantage in providing perspective,
analysis, context and interpretation.
I think we're going to have to multiply that several times over in the coming
years. As a result, I think reporters will generally tend to be more specialists
in the future than generalists to meet that demand for more sophistication in
I do think it's a great time to be a journalist. Journalists are the purveyors
of meaning, content and context amid all the noise out there, abilities that
will be more valuable, more essential in the future than ever. Our society needs
the help of journalists, not exclusively, but the help of journalists to lead
us from the Information Age to what we hope will become the Knowledge Age. And
we'll all be better off then.
Bill Keller was appointed managing editor of The New
York Times in September 1997. He joined the newspaper in 1984 and served
in various positions, including foreign editor, chief of The Times bureau
in Johannesburg and Moscow correspondent.
Keller won a Pulitzer Prize in March 1989 for his coverage of the Soviet Union.
Prior to joining The Times, Keller had been a reporter for The Dallas
Times Herald. He also wrote for the Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report
and The Oregonian.
He received a B.A. from Pomona College and completed the Advanced Management
Program at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Ann Marie Lipinski was named senior vice president and editor
of the Chicago Tribune in February 2001. She joined the newspaper as
a summer intern in 1978 and served in a range of positions, including executive
editor, managing editor and associate managing editor for metropolitan news.
As a reporter, Lipinski was one of three Tribune reporters who won
a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for the series, "City Council: The Spoils of Power."
The following year, she was awarded a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University,
where she studied for a year.
Prior to the Tribune, Lipinski worked as a summer intern at The
Miami Herald and was co-editor of Michigan Daily, the student newspaper,
while attending the University of Michigan.
Gary Pruitt has been president and chief executive officer
since 1996 of The McClatchy Company, which publishes 11 daily newspapers and
13 non-daily newspapers, including the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the
News & Observer in Raleigh and the Sacramento Bee.
He joined the company in 1984 as general counsel. In 1991, he became publisher
of The Fresno Bee. Prior to his appointment as CEO, he served as vice
president of operations and technology and president and chief operating officer.
Pruitt received the 1999 Isaiah Thomas Award from the Rochester Institute
of Technology for outstanding contributions to the newspaper industry. He holds
a B.A. from the University of Florida and a master's degree and law degree from
the University of California, Berkeley.