After reading through the four articles, I found myself a little disappointed with newspaper journalists (I also found myself wanting to switch majors). It seems most journalists prefer to dwell on problems rather than expel the energy needed to solve them.

Jon Talton mentioned in his piece, “What’s really wrong with newspapers,” that newspaper editors are devoting a lot of time to creating new editorial features to attract non-readers.  I have noticed a lot of this going on during my internships with Seattle publications, but unlike Talton who thinks this habit is damaging the papers, I think it is leading them in the right direction.  Talton argues that instead of developing new products to attract people who aren’t necessarily interested in reading the news in the first place, editors should be using their resources to enhance the content that pleases existing readers.  However, I don’t think that strategy would keep newspapers afloat.  What’s needed is a combination of the two strategies.

For example, Seattlepi.com is doing a good job of employing both (with about 20 staff members).  In this era of online news sites, it is extremely important to bring new readers to the page.  Many sites are sustained through advertising, and papers make more money when they get more mouse clicks on their site.  The P-I introduces new editorial features often such as celebrity photo galleries, innovative page designs, new sections and infographics.  However, its reporters continue to crank out popular articles to keep loyal readers.  Those editors who truly believe they only have time for one strategy or the other need to reorganize their staff … or see the beauty in taking on college interns.

I thought Hal Varian brought up an interesting argument in his blog.  As he pointed out, the core news items in papers are typically cross-subsidized by the ad revenue from their special niche sections like travel, auto and entertainment, but with the arrival of the internet, many readers have started relying on Web sites like Expedia or Perez Hilton’s for their information.  Therefore, advertisers are looking elsewhere as well.  However, I think this problem can be easily solved (over time anyway).  Online news sites are becoming more and more creative with their content.  For example, most of the daily online papers now have their own Hollywood and travel blogs etc.  I think with the right marketing and use of SEO (search engine optimization) titles, newspapers could come  to dominate these markets.

I think the biggest thing editors need to do is let go of their idea of the traditional newspaper.  Like Mathew Ingram wrote on his blog, “The reality is that most newspapers simply don’t appreciate how different the online world is when it comes to content.” I think the outlook for print newspapers is pretty grim (it’s far too trendy now to have a Kindle, iPad or smart phone).  But online newspapers could certainly thrive if editors are up to the task.

Kathy Gill’s post discussing her outrage over the idea of paid content was completely justified.  Newspapers and other communication channels such as radio and television have never directly charged for their content, and in my opinion, turning to readers for funding simply reflects the hesitant (lazy?) attitudes of traditional newspaper honchos.  Newspapers have the tools to be profitable, their editors just need to learn how to take advantage of them.

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