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What if 61 percent of your news stopped?

Published: Sun, January 17, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)

By Todd Franko

Did you “hear the news” about the county sales-tax plans?

Did you “see the news report” about the minister wanting the school superintendent out?

Did you “check out the blog post” about city redevelopment?

Reality is that when you encounter a news item from any of the above forms of media, odds are that the news originated in a newspaper.

A newspaper.

That’s not me proclaiming that so as to counter promotions from competing media that shout “news first” or “the most local news” or whatever. It’s a real, true measure of one media market, and a realization that it’s likely carried out across other cities where there is competing media, such as we have in our Valley.

The Pew Research Center is a D.C.-based nonprofit whose mission is to spot trends and issues affecting American life, particularly in the area of media — what we watch, how we absorb and how we react to all communication forms.

Pew wanted to understand which media outlets create news, how citizens get that news, and how much of it is unique and independent vs. regurgitated from elsewhere.

Of particular interest was how the explosion of new media — micro Web sites and blogs — challenged traditionalists such as newspapers.

Last summer, Pew plopped down in Baltimore for several days and audited every media source and news story they could find. In that city, there were 53 news outlets, from radio to TV to Web sites to talk shows to blogs to newspapers.

For one week, they counted everything. Here’s what they found: Sixty-one percent of Baltimore’s news originated from newspapers.

So whether it was a news item from a morning radio talk show host, a blogger, a TV or radio newscast, a boutique Web site, or a Google alert — there was a 2-out-of-3 chance that the story started with the newspaper.

Why should you care?

A less-informed society is a less-able society. We need to value access to information and engage and invest in the conduits for that information.

I would tell you this if 61 percent of news came from putting my ear to a seashell.

That it’s newspapers is profound in that newspapers are going through a foundational economic shift.

We’re becoming more tech-savvy. We post and tweet with the best of them to the point that the most-read news sites in America and here in the Valley are largely newspaper sites.

But from our earliest days, our economic model was flawed.

The vital information newspapers gathered and provided was funded by advertising. As dependent as we’ve been on Watergate reporting such as Woodward and Bernstein’s, we’ve also been as dependent on Barnes & Noble and Bartles & Jaymes.

This is our challenge, for sure.

We are a private business that must figure out a way to thrive — with reporting, printing and delivery that meets reader and advertiser demands. All of it is on the table for re- evaluation, and it dominates our work days as I write this.

But it also is your challenge in terms of where you choose to invest your money as a reader and an advertiser.

So when you hear Mangino and Louie Free championing a cause on radio, read your favorite blogger ranting or watch your favorite TV anchor, likely what they’re offering as news started as news in a newspaper article — whether from The Vindicator or The Plain Dealer or The New York Times.

If 61 percent of our news disappears, where are we as a community?

Who sends reporters out to collect the news that is so vital to the community conversation everyone engages in each day?

It’s a community challenge, not just ours.

And with apologies to Bartles & Jaymes: We thank you for your support.


1UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Does this mean the Vindy is going to close up shop? Better it merge with the useless Warren Trib, and provide a valley newspaper.

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2NoBS(2819 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

KimKotheimer is right - I stopped delivery of the Vindy because of the carrier. When I dropped my subscription I told the powers that be that when this carrier no longer carries the paper in my neighborhood, I'll consider coming back. But, as enjoyable a ritual as sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and the morning paper is (assuming it actually comes in the morning), I'm finding other ways to get my news. Including this site.

But that's not the main point I wanted to bring up. Please don't trot out that old chestnut about an informed society being an able society. Moreso now than ever before, we're being spoon-fed only select nuggets of information. And we know it. With distrust of the news media's impartiality and accuracy at an all-time high, both locally and nationally, I'd have to think the best way to 'fix' the print media's problem is to give us what the talking heads can't - the WHOLE story. In depth, with background information and pertinent sidebar stories. The TV news cannot give us that. The print media can.

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3Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Perhaps a computer technology ,an energy exploration and an alternative energy column could be considered to spur interest in The Vindy .

Many of us have supported The Vindy over the years . The Sunday Edition was always good reading . To continue the cycle the interest of the young must be maintained .

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4toddfranko(101 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago


It looks like it's been a busy morning here. Thank you.

STAN: Thanks for the suggestions. We do try to fit some tech news in Sunday's biz section. We'd like to find more space for more tech news. Green is getting some examination now.

KIM: We're with you on Neighbors littering right-o-ways and vacant homes. Nonsubscriber delivery is not a perfect science. Email me the streets where they're piling up, and we'll get it on our nondeliver list.

SHAKESPEARE: We, too, for years desired something for our unique markets. We're proud of the launch of Neighbors (except in instances noted above). Hopefully you'll find it worthy as well -- for $50,000 cars or other buys.

NOBS: We give you all we can get. Ask Belinky, Cronin, Traficant, ex-Columbiana Sheriff Smith. If there's "more" news we don't get, it's likely A) Lack of resources, which my column addressed; B) Lack of access to the info the public knows to be true; or C) What the public thinks to be true is not because we found the truth.

UNION: One item I did not squeeze into the print column was "the hated local paper" — whether us or the Trib. In Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Columbus and even New York, the "local" papers there are hated, too — and those are papers our critics say "you need to be more like the _____." The local paper — as the only gig in town — can never live up to a region's expectations. A good day is when only half the public dislikes our work. That said, what will be disliked even more is when there's no paper at all. There are towns around Ohio that have that tale to share.

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5northsideperson(366 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

About eight years ago, I tried to sell something in the vindicator without a home phone number - just my cell phone. At that time, they would not accept the ad.

I hope this policy has changed, as many people no longer have home phones, and as there are alternative venues.

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6news38(9 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

The importance of local newspaper reporters goeseven beyond the 61% item origination rate. A few years ago the Vindicator ran a 4 Sunday series of articles on a local issue. The length and depth of the articles was probably equal to what TV news would consider about 40 "in depth" on air reports. Both width and depth used to be the advantage of print media.

I certainly have no insight into how newspapers can survive. I still like the papercopy but can imagine someday I will no longer have it. Your newspapers in the schools program clearly showed your fear that young people are just not developing a concern for daily local news beyond sports.

I live in a household that takes both the Vindicator and the Tribune and I consider the Vindicator to be the better paper particularly since the Tribune gave up its best local columnist.

There are only a few things I can think of doing. Read it. Occasionally try to mention ads when buying something. Try to use some of the coupons that advertisers will know came from the paper. If you are in a conversation with people bring up information from the newspaper and act just a little surprised if other people did not know about it.

I know how hard it is to find the old fashioned news carriers so I don't mind if you just keep flinging it on the porch. If someone is elderly or handicapped putting it in the door might be nice.

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