Friday, January 02, 2009

Internet: Newspaper's nemesis and hero.

This is a guest post on the topic of newspapers and the Internet. This is a topic that the author, Eric Pehowic, and I have discussed in the past. Since Eric is a professional journalist, I thought that his take on this will be interesting. Enjoy.

When Stan Yann asked me to write about the Internet and the newspaper business, I jumped at the chance. But to explore the topic fully would take far more words than anyone wants to read in one sitting, so I'll try to paint with a broad stroke.

The Internet is the ultimate enigma for newspapers: At the same time its enemy and its savior.

Daily newspapers struggle to keep readers who are logged on all day and get a constant news feed, if they want it. A recent study found that the only demographic that still relies on newspapers for most of their news are 50-years old or older. A Pew report, released on Dec. 23, 2008, says that for the first time, "Internet has surpassed all other media except television for national and international news."

And while newsmen and newswomen should hate the Internet for taking away the readers, the online realm is our only future. The most frustrating aspect, and the one that shook me to the core when I realized it a few months ago, is how untimely the printed medium is.

Even more startling, reporters and editors seem completely comfortable continuing to work in this way.

Let's talk untimely:

  • Half of the stories run in newspapers are not news anymore: A big story at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday is played out by the time readers get it Wednesday morning.
  • Newspapers are not for breaking news. TV, Internet and radio are much better at getting the latest news out first. Even if there was a publication hourly, the paper is still potentially 58 minutes behind any breaking story. Despite using recycled newsprint and ink, the gas, ink and paper wasted daily already makes newspapers very ungreen, let alone what it would take for multiple publications per day.

Now, this is not to say newspapers, news sources, have no place in this world. Newspapers will always be here in some way. Hopefully there is an evolution into a newsmachine that uses the Internet for up-to-the-second news, and the paper for more in-depth and investigative local stories.

There are many questions that need to be answered and tough decisions that need to be made before any of this takes place. But it can work, and newspapers cannot be afraid to try.

Eric Pehowic is the assistant managing editor of The Danville News. A news and sports journalist since 1997, he writes about fantasy football online at and about video games and other wastes of time at


ep said...

Thanks for the chance to post here, and for the Tweet.