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A Future for News

August 28th, 2010 by David Nelson

Just more than a month ago, I wrote about our 75th anniversary and shared what that felt like in the newsroom. It was a look back at where we began, and the thread that still runs deep here on Fifth Street.

Today I’m writing with the same intention of opening the door to the Sun’s psyche, if slightly differently. I also hope to bring you in on the discussion of a question always present in a newsroom: what’s next?

Call this part two of that 75th anniversary column.

I’m asked often about our future, which is no surprise in a region that’s seen a major metro newspaper go online-only, is filled with tech companies, and has an audience that has heard too often our industry’s “bad news” — declining circulation, laid-off staff, loss of trust in traditional news sources. With that backdrop, where we’re headed is a question we ask ourselves internally during the cycle of annual planning, both as the Sun and as a part of the E.W. Scripps company.

There’s also the future of our industry to contemplate, a complex question in a time when change is more prevalent than ever at newspapers and websites competing to stay relevant.

The easy answer is yes, there is a future for the Sun and for journalism. The tougher follow-up question is what that will look like, what growing pains we’ll go through, what skills our journalists will need, what new options readers and advertisers will demand, and whether the revelation that solves the riddle will be posted to Facebook or Twitter first.

I’m kidding on that last one, but those social media tools are a real part of our present and important to our future. How to harness new software or products to share the news and recruit talent that uses them is something we’re seeking, both in this newsroom and in collaboration with our 14 sister newspapers in the Scripps chain. (Newspapers that, incidentally, are using Facebook now to explore the issue if you’d like to join, at facebook.com/futureofnews.)

One step in finding that answer is Sunday’s front-page story package, our contribution to the media’s attempt to explain how changes in information consumption shapes what we do. The exercise helps explain a trend to readers, but also helps our newsroom think through the challenge.

The lead story, by reporter Derek Sheppard, looks at how mobile devices have changed communication habits. That’s as broad as how much easier it is to talk with one another, something not unique to Kitsap County, and can be as narrow as how that technology delivers kitsapsun.com in a way not even thought of four years ago.

When we review readership numbers, mobile-phone use — whether on the iPhone, Blackberry, Android or other phone through m.kitsapsun.com — has become the consistent leader for growth. With Kindle and iPad popularity growing, smartphones may not hold that lead for much longer. Looking at where readers fit us into busy and technology-soaked lives is in part what prompted Sheppard’s inquiry, and it’s why we are spending resources to find out how we serve our community through those platforms while still putting energy into a printed newspaper.

Another piece in today’s edition is a profile of Publicola, a Seattle website started 18 months ago. We examined the niche political site to offer a specific look at an online-only publication staffed by journalists with deep roots — who, not incidentally, walked away from paying gigs to experiment with digital-only publishing. Other attempts have been made in the Pacific Northwest, most notably with seattlepi.com, but Publicola offers an interesting angle on the story because it’s evolved a niche news strategy and business plan swiftly — with a flexibility that may be common in media for the foreseeable future.

There is some hope for journalism in that start-up, just like the encouragement I see when the Sun’s mobile and online readership builds on our print reputation. Or when our staff adapts to new technology, or when new readers find us through Facebook or a mobile site. As I wrote in July, there’s also optimism when people simply ask how the Sun is doing these days.

Technology, as we’re seeing with niche websites and social media hubs, doesn’t diminish the interest folks still have in local news — and I believe the advances can make that community more inclusive. For example, visit a site that specifically serves tomato growers, or fly-fishermen, or Kitsap County prep football, or, I have to mention, our comment threads on stories. None of that existed not long ago. People are in dialogue more specifically, but we’re still a relevant part of that.
There are more entry points to our newsroom now, more ways for us to be part of a conversation that was for decades relegated to the Opinion page or your breakfast table, and more ways for readers to be informed or involved. There are success stories coming from start-up news organizations that we watch, new delivery devices to make reading convenient, and nonmedia digital companies we can learn from or partner with.

Answering the questions related to those innovations and other trends we see in the business world — “Who pays for this stuff?” chief among them, of course — is the part of the discussion we’re knee-deep in. It’s also the part I’m inviting you to participate in.

— David

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12 Responses to “A Future for News”

  1. SharonO'Hara Says:

    “more ways for readers to be informed or involved. There are success stories coming from start-up news organizations that we watch, new delivery devices to make reading convenient, and nonmedia digital companies we can learn from or partner with…”

    And we, the readers, learn about our world and neighborhoods.
    I, for one, am willing to pay for the privilege of reading the Sun online.
    Beyond that…you are bright kids – you’ll figure it out. I have no doubt the Sun will be alive and well long after many of us are gone.

    Warmest regards and thanks… Sharon O’Hara

  2. Mick Sheldon Says:

    I have noticed with myself I continue to be looking at news stories from different sources. Many times the same story I will read or watch how it is given to us, how it is presented I find fascinating and also informative to how much credence I give the story. Did the reporter look into the issue or is he or she reporting on the spin of a couple of sources. Does the same reporter who feels it necessary to explain most of the people were white at a public meeting in a news story also cite that most of the reporters he or she deals with every day are white ? Is the race important to the story , or was race injected to the story. Why report something in a story , why not report it I find interesting .

    Why and what is reported I find illuminating and telling . One religious writer for the same paper cites one view as intolerant as does the cover story of the paper means what ? Tolerance ? If a news story covered the Romans 2000 years ago feeding Christians to the Lions would tolerance be reported in regards to the Romans who accepted many gods , religious pluralism, open to public sexuality, and other aspects of their views that perhaps agree with modern pluralism be reported as tolerant ? Would the fact that they hung people up on trees for days matter also ? Would opposing views of those being fed to the lions be made out to be intolerant ? Would not a better source of news perhaps give a more realistic understanding to the story from a multiple of angles , the Romans and those being fed to the Lions had points that being left out of the story . I find this the main reason why news has exploded with so many different sources. Those Roams are not perfect after all . No body is .

    Mainstream media has been criticized for one view , allowing a multiple of new news sources to get involved in the news. Now local news papers are being given a second chance , I hope they don’t blow it again .

    One of the reasons blogs have interest , critical thinking skills can be illuminated on a blog at times . And wow you can read a story and be given something more to think about .

    I think the biggest obstacle and advantage with the mainstream media is its ability to provide a source of news while giving different readers information that has a mutual interest to all in its region.
    Obituaries and birth announcements are not enough.
    Its a incredible task in my opinion and have not seen it accomplished by too many media sources. I just canceled my subscription to the Sun . I am hoping they get me back , not because they provide good service . They do that from a delivery stand point . Not from an economical stand point , because I think the cost is well worth it , having a news source be the watch dog and informative link to the community is invaluable. Not from a professional staff , actually I think they are the best they have ever been . Honest , I lived here since 1977.

    I want to know the news , not a slant on the news , the news effecting what ALL my neighbors are facing in our neighborhood and form an understanding that brings us together in at least a common objective understanding of that news. I guess I am getting old , but have seen too many stories reported based on tolerance and world views then see intolerance ignored and world views ignored by those who report and edit for this paper.

    Get me back , quit explaining why I am wrong . Offer news that all of us can rely on.

  3. SharonOHara Says:

    Mick… I/m not quite sure what you mean by several comments…my questions are in ( —–)
    “Now local news papers are being given a second chance , I hope they don’t blow it again (Mick, How are they being ‘given’ a second chance? Their converage and idea of ‘news’ is far superior these days compared to several times in past decades I stopped reading it.

    ….quit explaining why I am wrong . Offer news that all of us can rely on….I want to know the news , not a slant on the news … the news effecting what ALL my neighbors are facing in our neighborhood and form an understanding that brings us together in at least a common objective understanding of that news..”
    (The only way to know what ALL the neighbors are facing is to interview each and every one. That would be a huge task in good economic times and shows the value of blogs. Each neighbor has the opportunity to offer their perspective.

    I’m sorry you felt the need to stop your subscription…in these times of newspaper challenges…they need our support more than any time in the past…
    I hope you and your family reconsider.

    Sharon O’Hara

  4. Mick Sheldon Says:

    “Mick, How are they being ‘given’ a second chance? ”

    Sharon I believe the way newspapers have started to use the electronic media is giving them a second chance maintaining a presence in the news media market.

    “The only way to know what ALL the neighbors are facing is to interview each and every one.”

    Ha , well yes .

    But I would give a ball park figure of perhaps say 10 to 20 percent of the people in this county I relate with in a large way who believe this Newspaper has no knowledge , or even connection with them or their beliefs. I believe there are other parts of this community that I am not part of who believe the same . That they are made to appear as caricatures to make a Sun newspaper view of sorts fit into a box.
    I am not speaking political, most people I know and relate to are un political as their families. I rather choose to Love my community , not support or attack those who see the community as some parts grade A some parts a bad bag of apples. And yes , help me learn how to love it . admit I need some help there .

    What caused my decision here.
    Consider this , the paper used its discernment to replace one writer with another .

    The writer used examples of one religious belief and put it into a bad apple bag . Listed others with a a Grade A rating . Even listed those places of worship. One of those grade a listed religious institutions not long ago advertised a film to be shown at their place of worship that promotes a view that those 3000 murdered on 9/11 and others who were victims of the hi jacked airplanes were caused by an inside conspiracy that started from our President to our Federal Government agencies . Another One of these religious institutions that was given a Grade A listing promoted through its local Kitsap Church the nation wide effort to boycott the Salvation at Christmas . The strategy , to boycott giving and then dropping messages in their Red Buckets , the ones where money is dropped for those who are hungry and without. the messages stating their problem with the Salvation Army actually providing a medical plan for its employees and those who are married to their employees. They were upset because the Salvation Army , a religious organization based on the Bible , actually would not provide benefits based on homosexual relationships of employees or couples just living together .

    I volunteered to write a blog for the paper last week . was told it was a good idea. I choose to share and promote this newspaper on the terms it is used to educate, enlighten , be a means that people can connect with , share and help others that are belong to this community . My firstblog is on a religious organization I am part of that promotes mentoring . I hope the Sun gives me the space . I am waiting ,
    When the paper considers reporting the news from a spectrum that reports to the community in a more inclusive style and increase their discernment and RESPECT of the other parts of this community , I will give them a try .

  5. SharonOHara Says:

    “…the paper used its discernment to replace one writer with another ….”
    Mick are we both talking about the same newspaper, Kitsap Sun? Who was replaced?

    “…used to educate, enlighten , be a means that people can connect with , share and help others that are belong to this community ….” Well, of course…that is the point.

    Are we looking at a newspaper religious battle of words? A “my pew is holier than your pew” sort of thing?” Hard to believe we’re reading the same paper…but I won’t argue religion with anyone. Good health care, yes.

    What is your blog called?
    Welcome Mick!
    Sharon O’Hara

  6. Mick Sheldon Says:

    “Mick are we both talking about the same newspaper, Kitsap Sun? Who was replaced?”

    Dr. Phil Ferdandez. Institute of Bibical Defence Director, has written a couple of books , the kind you find at the local Christian Book store . Perhaps not a religious writer for a local newspaper, his articles were usually the type that would give logical reasoning and philsophical understanding to topics such as say Why there is a God or speak to certain Bibical beliefs . Actually had to be a Bible nerd to really enjoy his stuff. I am , but he is a terrefic person also and Sally was quite nasty about her comments about him . The Romas believed all roads led to heaven too , and you had better odds getting to heaven quicker when those pluralistic folks were in control . The Jews and christians who were moralistic , One God , One Bible type of people had their problems back then too with the PC crowd of the day . To me is always about respect , not about whose pew is better or which people are the “nice ” ones . People are people ,you usually get all the types in each group. I just think Sally needs to give Evangelicals the same benefit of doubt and respect she gives Muslims . Thats all.

    I could see a local paper making a change , I just don’t understand the lack of concern for the religious leftist view in predominated populated religious conservative area . Which is a county with a low church attendance over all. So with the low number of church attendess anyway , why have one that plays to the PC crowd and insults others along the way . ? But like you say , you don’t see it .

    If they allow my blog it will be called….. HEART …..

    Honoring Equity And Respecting Tradition

    Nope will not be my pew is better then Sallys . People who know me that I did search for the perfect Pew, when i found it and sat in it all perfection was lost . ;o) Nope just putting people together with people , perhaps throw a little perhaps those horific pro life signs need to come down comment ” you know the nasty ones showing body parts” but also advertsing some good Spirit Filled Churches and their programs , not to mention say like the coming pro life walk in Bremerton and Traditional Church programs that are not in presently even known about . Not to mention the paper has no clue at all to the new movement coming to the Christian Community , the prophetic and such . God is moving as we say . i ‘ll leave the Good people want a mosque , bad people don’t to the experts.

  7. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    Wow! Never thought of Sally’s blog as competition – religious competition or points of view.
    I do know history tells us the world’s greatest evil and most cruel battles have been in the name of religion.

    I work hard to stay focused on health issues and live every day in thanks to God for another day to live.
    I also believe the world evolves and will evolve into 2013 just as it probably will roll into 2011 and 2012.

    Good luck and best wishes Mick whatever the KS and you decide to do….I probably won’t read your blog anymore than I read Sally’s and sports blogs.
    Sharon O’Hara

  8. Mick Sheldon Says:

    Wow did not think of it as competition.
    I would not Not be preaching theology or politics, I would be blogging to a already set up Faith Community , not recruiting or preaching to how others are not up to par. Once in a while may lecture on my pet peeve of being civil . Did smile when you mentioned it would be competition. When did we reach the understanding in our community that standing up for those on both sides of an issue , speaking to treating each side with respect and dignity as being a competitve view . I so miss Civics being taught in America for politics and the Basic Golden Rule being used other then a club in religious discussions . No Sharon , not competition , sometimes good people disagreeand yes , both can have God In their hearts .

    Kind of funny in a sad way , That is competition ? Promoting respect and digntity for all sides in an issue . But thats the community newspapers view point most likely also . They are making money because people respond to that have included in Sallys View, people who have murdered abortion doctors, Hitler , her article has caused supporters to say . I am not sure why anyone would write a story and think getting that response was a good one . That the issue be lost into a parade of bigoted stereotypes about the people who you disagree with ?

    Was a little confused with the evil and such about religion comment ? That sounds a bit of a cliché and you are usually above those . Some of the worst tradegies and evil the world has seen has been because of religion. People have used it gain control of the way people vote especially with the emergence of the religious left and then the religious right in politics, also to gain control over another human’s dignity and livelyhood.. But then again the most deaths and evil to cultures have been the past 100 years where regimes and communtiies allowed those to totally ignore and with hold the sharing of faith with their communities . I just never see people speaking to secualar politics about the danger nd evil of conflicting ideas there . Only when religion is a subject do we get ahhhhh, don’t burn the witches .

    Recent secular Mass Murder and other atrocities that have out numbered all the centuries before of the world have not been in the name of religion Sharon . That is not a defence of religion , that is a statement of fact of current events. Of course religion has done some bad things , but in recent times good old man kind has out did himself just worshipping himself . We should NOT forget the things like the Crussades , witch trials , But compared now to millions of murdered and those who been controled by dictators and such while religion has been censorsed is an important to understand also. In comparison, religion is a blimp on the murder scale compared to the past 100 years of the anti God and pro collectivism snick in some governments who rose to power in Europe and elsewhere , that have thankfully mostly gone by by.
    No problem , knowing the Sun it will see another view as a threat to the community , as you have .

    I rather have Queen Sally then Stalin anyday myself .

    Sallys view is in much more inclined with yours Sharon. The folks I would be speaking up would be part of the community you may not see or even be aware of . They are usually not seen too much in the news at all . Their congregations are bigger , their numbers are larger . I just thought it was a good idea. And a community builder .

  9. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    A threat to the community Mick?
    Nope, it doesn’t boil down to a threat to community – decency and consideration in a community or neighborhood is not dependant on community belonging to the same church does it?.
    You mentioned Sally’s blog views first, I did not. \Competition\ could be two different people writing different things in the name of religion.. You compare her views to yours…and you don’t consider her blog as competition?

    Calling her ‘Queen’ Sally and that you prefer her to Stalin seems contentious. If someone says they prefer you to Stalin, would you feel flatterted?

    Fact is no one religion or non religion has the market on honor, ethics, decency, honesty and consideration to others.

    I haven’t read Sally’s blog as you have but I find it hard to believe that she would pick your posts apart as you have hers and find them wanting.

    To me a community newspaper gives information about happenings in the community…are you saying the KS does not?
    Sharon O’Hara

  10. Mick Sheldon Says:

    Sharon You stated

    “Fact is no one religion or non religion has the market on honor, ethics, decency, honesty and consideration to others.”

    Exactly what I have been writing about . Better said then I guess. At least we seem to believe the same on this .
    But I don’t get what you misunderstood .

    your other comments made me think the conversation just sunk farther then I wished . Sorry , take care .

  11. Colleen Smidt Says:

    Mick,

    I am looking forward to reading your blog and many of the subsequent conversations that come from it. Such as Faith vs Religon. I certainly hope that the Kitsap Sun gets it rolling sooner rather than later. Thanks for the heads up.

  12. Mick Sheldon Says:

    Thank you so much Colleen .
    many good things happening In kitsap that many are unaware of, hoping to allow some people to have a place where they use to communicate their issues and share their endeavors.

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