It’s too early to give up on newspapers

Stefan Dill is switching sides. He’s leaving newspaper digital media for the television web.

On a personal level, I’m sad to see him leave the newspaper industry. While I’ve never met Stefan, I think he’s been hanging out in the same online newspaper forums with me for more than a decade. He’s a smart guy.

In his posts, he outlines some reasons for leaving. While I respect his decision and believe he’ll be successful in his new gig, I disagree with some of what he writes.

Yes, the newspaper industry is in trouble. Yes, there are too many people too mired in old ways of thinking. Yes, it our newsrooms and sales staffs (especially sales staffs) are changing attitudes too slowly. But I’m not convinced things are any better on the TV side.

I mean, just go over some of the debates we’ve had about video on this blog and else where — several TV types have weighed in with head-in-the-sand attitudes about change and innovation no different than what you’ll find in many newsrooms. Based on my personal experience, I would say TV staffs have no more sense of urgency than our print colleagues.

TV station web sites tend to display a not-getting attitude that is at least five years behind newspaper attitudes.

Last summer, I looked at taking a job at a TV station. I was dissuaded by the station’s seeming unwillingness to spend money. The attitude seemed much more tight-fisted than anything I’ve experienced at newspapers.

I don’t mean this to be a TV vs. newspaper debate, or to be critical of Stefan’s decision, but to say, TV and newspapers, as far as ability to change, are probably a lot more alike than they are different. Stefan is still going to have a challenge champion change. I’m sure he can do it, but my advice is to gird himself for some battles.

Sure, TV has its advantages (like big vaults of video and more legacy talent and training in video), but TV can’t match a newspaper’s ability to produce massive amounts of content, which is a competitive advantage on the web. And newspaper people can learn video. I don’t see TV station managers hiring 10 or 20 more reporters.

Newspapers are also almost always the dominant medium in any market, which is why newspaper web sites tend to crush TV web sites in audience reach (in many markets, newspaper.coms beat the #1 TV station in reach).

As for cultural changes, I’m not giving up on newspapers or the people who run and produce them. I’ve seen how newspaper cultures and people can change when given the right tools and the right incentives.

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2 thoughts on “It’s too early to give up on newspapers

  1. In my opinion, Stefan Dill is brilliant. He will definitely be a great addition to any staff.

    –glad I found this site, I shall be returning

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