Why newspapers shouldn’t die

Dan Gillmor:

  Newspapers have at least two more huge opportunities.

  First is to open the archives, with permalinks on every story in the database. Newspapers hold more of their communities’ histories and all other media put together, yet they hoard it behind a paywall that produces pathetic revenues and keeps people in the communities from using it — as they would all the time — as part of their current lives. The revenues would go up with targeted search and keyword-specific ads on those pages, I’m absolutely convinced. But an equally important result would be to strengthen local ties.

  Second, expand the conversation with the community in the one place where it’s already taking place: the editorial pages. Invert them. Make the printed pages the best-of and guide to a conversation the community can and should be having with itself. The paper can’t set the agenda, at least not by itself (nor should it), but it can highlight what people care about and help the community have a conversation that is civil and useful.

Those aren’t just opportunities. They’re advantages that papers still have. Even if they’re not using them.

7 comments

  1. Jon’s avatar

    A community based around news. I like it. There could be all kinds of sub-communities based around categories, subjects, and individual stories.

  2. Hanan Cohen’s avatar

    In other words, move “letters to the editor” to the front page?

  3. Charles Frith’s avatar

    Letters to the editor, radio phone in shows, town criers were all participatory media firsts.

  4. Andrew Leyden’s avatar

    “but it can highlight what people care about and help the community have a conversation that is civil and useful.”

    Go read the comments section of the Washington Post or any of the political stories in Digg. Those conversations are neither civil or useful.

    related: There was an interesting fight at the Post between the folks who handled “letters to the editor” and had a very strict policy on name verification and publication rules, and the guys at WashPost.com who had an ‘internet’ view of ‘let everyone jump in in any form’. I still read the letters to the editor. I long ago abandoned their comments pages.

  5. Dan Gillmor’s avatar

    Doc, thanks for the link. Here are pointers to two long-ago postings where I amplified each of those points:

    Newspapers: Open Your Archives — title speaks for itself.

    Where Newspapers Can Start the Conversation — turning the editorial pages into the community conversation space.

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