Thursday, April 8, 2010

Breaking News from the Luncheon Keynoter

Posted on Columbia Journalism Review ( April 6, 2010

By Steve Daley

First of all I’d like to thank (Tucker Carlson; Arianna Hufington; that tweedy-looking professor over there) for the opportunity to discuss the future of newspapers and print journalism.

We meet at a time when our beloved industry is (in a period of historic transition; completely hosed; in more trouble than the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome).

Like you, I love the newspaper business. I (read five or six papers a day; got a week-a-year severance deal back when the getting was good; was in my 40s before I realized I had a job but not a career).

Almost every day someone asks me (for advice on whether or not to go to journalism school; how to become the London bureau chief for the New York Times; do I have a phone number for Burson-Marsteller).

And I always say the same thing; (Go for it, my friend; Why don’t you go outside and lie down in traffic?; I could tell you the truth but it’s too painful for both of us).

It’s true that when I was coming up you could (write your way out of South Bend; have someone help you file your story if you got drunk; fool yourself into thinking you had a professional future).

Yes, those were great days. But you didn’t come here to listen to (an embittered geezer; a guy with a 4-and-a-half bathroom house on 29th St. in Georgetown; complete sophistry about the future of print).

No, you want to (hear 21st century jargon such as “crowdfunding” and “reader engagement”; think you can be a salaried columnist when if you’re lucky you’ll end up as a “digital community manager”; believe that really smart people in newsrooms are getting a handle on all this).

Some may scoff. But I would encourage you to pursue that dream, because (newspapers fold but journalism school is forever; there may come a time when people will decline to write for nothing; maybe the MacArthur Foundation will pick up the tab for everything).

If I could say just one thing to you that is (reason for optimism; the main takeaway from my upcoming book on the future of news; palpably untrue and yet said all the time in these sessions it would be:

(The old business model isn’t working but you may be the one to identify the new model; The future lies in “hyperlocal” news; The answers can be found in incorporating advertising into Kindle content and smart phone applications).

In fact, innovation is everywhere. It’s true that the early results for “citizen journalism” (have been mixed; tell us that with free content you generally get what you pay for; exposed fundamental misunderstandings of the difference between reporting and bloviating).

If you’re like me, when you hear of the need for newspapers to move beyond the “monopoly mindset” and function better as “a filter,” you think (it makes a heck of a lot of sense; Dick Nixon would’ve loved that; give readers less, tell them it’s more).

And when you hear of the imperative to “personalize the news” you think (I love white space; co-branded flea markets; hey, I can now personally read my hometown paper in about five minutes).

Cynics often compare the newspaper to the dinosaur. But remember that (dinosaurs roamed the earth for millions of years; many had brains the size of walnuts, much like Chief Innovation Officers; extinction theories abound but we know the end came abruptly).

New voices have come to the table. The passion we feel is shared by (former radio execs who love hanging banners in the newsroom; bright young folks who tell Romenesko that credentialing reporters is elitist; the folks down at the news co-op who are kind of fixated on their non-profit tax status right now).

We welcome them all. I’d love to stay and entertain some questions but (I’m on CNN with Rick Sanchez in 25 minutes; I don’t have any good answers; I have to get back to a mandatory newsroom seminar on search engine optimization).

Going forward I wish you all what I have enjoyed - a long and fulfilling career in the newspaper game.

That, of course, (is what we all wish for; went out the window sometime during the Clinton years; is not ever going to happen in this millennium).

Be sure to tip your content providers, er, servers on the way out. The chicken Kiev was real nice.