Being married for 18 years has taught me how to make
excuses. Usually these excuses have little effect, other than to serve as a
caustic reminder of just how little influence I have in my own house.
Nevertheless, my excuse for not posting in the past couple
months is a pretty good one: I’ve been busy compiling a book based on this
blog. So you see, I have been writing, just the old-fashioned way – in private.
The book – called The
Last Newspaper: Reflections on the Future of News – should be done next
month, at which time there might even be a few newspapers left. I hope so – as
regular readers of this blog know, I’m still a fan of storytelling, something
that Twitter can’t provide and that newspapers don’t deliver often enough. And
I’m a fan of reporters, partly because I used to be one, and partly because
they aren’t editors.
It’s easy to assume that all social media today is an
iceberg, newspapers are the Titanic and that reporters are looking for
lifeboats. While certainly true for some, there are others for whom newspapers have
simply lost the desire to be different.
I met once such reporter recently in Sacramento. He was
interested in looking for a new career, but not for the reasons you may think.
He loves newspapers, loves writing for them and loves having worked for them for
nearly two decades. He also loves technology and embraces new media as much as
the old. And he’s not the least bit worried about becoming an unemployment statistic.
Blogs aren’t killing this mainstream media star – boredom
is. The “product” being shaped by management is a bland, watered-down journalism
designed not to offend, and in doing so ends up signifying nothing.
This is the opposite of what today’s newspapers need to do
to survive. Newspapers have to provoke and inspire. They must be spontaneous and
serious, make us laugh and cry. Most importantly, newspapers have to stop reporting
the news and start telling good stories again.
The news business can’t drive the product – that must be
left to the journalists. Let the good ones do their jobs and the product will
improve. Let them get bored, strip their inspiration, and the last newspaper may
be here sooner than we think.