Monday, January 24, 2011

What Makes a Newspaper Good?

THE NEW YORK TIMES today reports that the Los Angeles Times is dropping in circulation faster than any other big city daily paper. And this comes as the LA Times is a leading candidate for a Pulitzer Prize, the highest honor in print journalism.

The LA Times also maintains 13 international bureaus and regional offices across the United States. They devote large chunks of the paper to long-form journalism.

By journalistic standards, the paper is doing well. So why aren't people in Los Angeles reading it?

What makes a newspaper - or any journalistic outlet - qualify as a success? Is it enough to do good work? What do you want from your journalistic outlets? What would make you read, listen or watch?

10 comments:

one_news_guy said...

If a newspaper is not reaching their audience, no matter how good the reporting they have failed. The challenge is to do it all - meet First Ammendment responsibilities but also recognize that the reading habits of the general public have changed. This could mean reaching out in new ways - specialized sites, journalism foundations, apps, social media, multimedia reporting.
The dirty little secret of the news biz is that readers probably never did read all of the high-end journalism, but skipped to the police blotter and the sports pages after scanning the headlines. Now there is a way to measure this.
The good news? Niche sites can reach the RIGHT audience, if not a huge audience, and good reporting can still have a big impact. We just have to adjust the expectations of how this will be monetized.

Geo said...

Just to play devil's advocate: how do you define the RIGHT audience?

Shouldn't everyone be informed when journalists uncover political corruption or other actions impacting the public at-large?

Or should some people only be spoon-fed sports, snowpocalypse updates and Justin Bieber info?

- George
(the teacher who loves to play devil's advocate)

Sarah Mariano said...

I don’t read the LA Times, but hopefully they are not being biased. That would hurt the paper. Also, the majority of people who read the newspaper are older. I’m not talking about people in their 70’s or 80’s. For teens and young adults, they want to read about anything mainstream. But what is normally mainstream is not really news. What Justin Bieber (sp?) does in his free time shouldn’t be front cover news.

billydelion75 said...

I believe that the decline of print journalism is a very sad thing and we should be concerned about it. It is a direct reflection of the laziness and isolation that our manners of living are now promoting. We want anything easier and allows us to be lazy. Also, we are more and more isolating ourselves and living through social networking. Our educational levels are declining, especially reading levels. Why need to read when anything can be read to you now? Why have varied sources of information, no let's get it all from one spot so it can be more easily federally controlled. If you keep up on your classics it was well known throughout early Rome and Greece by royalty that keeping the people ignorant makes them easier to control. The best way to do that, control the information they are getting. The very information that sways their decisions, life-decisions. Feed them laziness, and lotsa reality TV, and just enough news to keep them from asking questions and nothing will ever change! Wake Up!

Michelle Montalvo said...

With social networking sites such as Twitter downsizing whole stories to 140 characters, it seems that instant gratification is what the general public wants when it comes to news. While I still enjoy reading newspapers, i have grown very fond of sites such as twitter for their ability to quickly inform me of an occurrence. while the information i receive may is most likely incomplete and the story lost amongst so few characters, i do enjoy being able to be in the know at just the click of a button.It seems the headlines of newspapers are the only thing relevant in today's society. anything else is just excess.

T said...

Is it enough to do good work? Well, if your goal is to produce quality, then yes, that's enough. If your goal is, as we defined today in class, to reach the largest audience possible, then no, good work is not in and of itself 'enough'. If the LA Times wants to rest on the laurels of being a great paper, then it will be a lovely sinking ship. The time has come to renew, re-invent and evolve. If the LA Times can embrace a new age while simultaneously maintaining their excellent quality of news, they will come out ahead.

A side note- I resent the assertion that young people are too spacey to focus on reading a newspaper. I spent 2 hours reading print papers today and flipping those pages was the most irritating part of my day. I romanticize print more than anyone, but to presume that those who prefer to read online are too lazy to read print is just insulting.

Aaron Stevens said...

This is most definitely a question no one person can answer. I certainly do believe there to be a generational difference in readers, and, unfortunately, do see misinformation and lack of it spreading through much of my peers like wild fire. The way we take in information is changing every day for better or for worse. Though winning a Pulitzer is no small consideration, and if LA doesn't want their awesome journalists can we have them? But back to the point, it seems we are a society with a changing (or declining) set of needs. I do reel from the thought of America becoming a Fahrenheit 451 society

Luke said...

I feel the key to this drop in readership could deal with the "large chunks of the paper to long-form journalism." With so many outlets providing quick bits of information, and relaying the most important and relevant details, readers have developed shorter attention spans. Now, I am not questioning the quality of the content published, but more so the way it is relayed. With blogs, twitter, NY Times apps, etc. our country is absorbing media quicker, and more and more companies have to fight even harder to gain our nation's attention. It's not enough anymore to just rely on quality. Sure, it's still a huge and significant factor, but personally, if I had a choice between the LA Times long-form, and short-form, I would shift attention to the short-form more often

Geo said...

Luke,

I got bored after reading the first line of your comment, and then quit reading.

Can you condense your statement to 140 characters or fewer? Preferably fewer.

Thanks.

- George
(the sarcastic teacher who fears the media is reducing us to a bunch of one-liner, sound-byte producing morons who lack context and understanding that in-depth journalism can provide)

Hillyquv said...

I don’t read the LA Times, but hopefully they are not being biased. That would hurt the paper. Also, the majority of people who read the newspaper are older. I’m not talking about people in their 70’s or 80’s. For teens and young adults, they want to read about anything mainstream. But what is normally mainstream is not really news. What Justin Bieber (sp?) does in his free time shouldn’t be front cover news.