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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Some Advice To Newspaper Editors: Embrace Change (Quickly) Or Die

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Word is all over the continent that the San Francisco Chronicle is chronically ill and more gloomy news for the newspaper business is going to be coming from the city by the bay. So what should be done? Some are blaming journalism professors, and say the academics are way behind the news curve and haven't embraced blogging and bloggers, don't understand how to ride technology waves, and have been running mossback programs geared to a century (the 20th) that has passed. The contention is that today, everyone is a journalist.

There is probably more than a grain of truth to that. Does anybody know of a journalism prof in Ohio who regularly blogs on current events? Are they pushing editors to innovate, try creative forms, catch the wave? If it is happening in Ohio, I'm not aware of it. And the big metro dailies in Ohio are just as sick as those everywhere else. So why aren't the j-schools hotbeds of innovation and leadership for the industry? Why don't the profs support, nurture and roll out ideas? It happens in medicine. It happens in engineering. It happens in computer science. It happens in agriculture, where if you check the patents you can find Ohio scientists have developed new varieties of everthing from apples to elm trees to genetically engineered hogs.

From the bay area comes this missive -- wondering, too -- why the journalism schools are barren places when it comes to ideas for journalism reform. The solution offered: "Embrace and extend," watchwords in the tech business that have yet to find their way into newsrooms.

[UPDATE: PsychoBillyDemocrat has some wise additions, and considers the implications of further shrinkage in the newspaper business. Redhorse's bloodlines are in print, so take stock of his views.]


  1. Bill, fantastic post that prompted me to add on at my place.

    I share your thoughts re: innovation. Why is it not occurring, why are students being taught to think like 20th century editors?

    It's a shame, and doesn't speak well for papers as the next generation takes the reins.

  2. More from Doc Searls here:

  3. roldo bartimoleMarch 27, 2007 9:57 AM

    Bill: It's good to see you writing.

    The plight of newspapers extends far beyond their inability to keep up with what's happening to them via the internet.

    That issue is just the latest example of newspapers generally failing to do their main job - providing adequate information to readers. Information that allows the public to understand and act in a meaningful way about their daily lives, particularly how public decisions are made, why and by whom.

    I left conventional newspapering nearly 40 years ago in disgust because I saw - over and over again - that newspapers were too indebted to powerful institutions and individuals that control most communities. So indebted and connected that they fail in their main task in a democracy to report how decisions are made, by whom and for whom.

    I'd appreciate if you would send me your e-mail address at