Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What's to become of newspapers? The debate goes on

Battle Plans for Newspapers is the current topic in the "Room for Debate Blog" at, starting with the blunt statement that, "In some cities, midsized metropolitan papers may not survive to year’s end."

The question is: "What survival strategies should these dailies adopt? If some papers don’t survive, how will readers get news about the local school board or county executive?"

The voices starting the "debate" are listed below, but the blog is open for comments and there were 184 of them when I started reading. The last one was "WOW!! There are many wonderful, insightful comments here. Read them all folks. These are not your usual pablum. Read on!!" I agree.

* Nicholas Lemann, dean of Columbia Journalism School
* Joel Kramer, editor of
* Steven Brill, founder of The American Lawyer magazine
* Geneva Overholser, Annenberg School of Journalism
* Craig Newmark, founder of
* Andrew Keen, author
* Edward M. Fouhy, founding editor of
* Rick Rodriguez, former editor of The Sacramento Bee

Lemann's first comment is "In many cities, newspaper readers are already seeing a much thinner, less complete paper than the one they used to read a few years ago."

Coincidentally, this week our local daily, The Roanoke Times, began consolidating sections, but editor Carole Tarrant said, "We don't expect this reformatting of the paper to result in a considerable reduction in the news we deliver, particularly local news. We realize that many of you look to us, foremost, for our daily community coverage. We appreciate that you value the work of our 100-plus journalists who report on and explain the significance of news happening in Southwest Virginia."

In its first 48 hours online, Tarrant's blog had comments from just two readers, both suggesting that the paper is too liberal, and one of them complaining of the paper's November price increase. (The daily paper jumped to 75 cents from 50 cents; the Sunday edition rose $1.75 from $1.50.)

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