Romenekso reports on comments by outgoing Cleveland editor Doug Clifton this way:
Doug Clifton, who is retiring today as Plain Dealer editor, says he hears at least once a day someone saying: “I don’t need the newspaper; I get my news from the Internet.” He reminds readers that the Internet doesn’t produce the content, it merely distributes it. “Newspapers will survive if readers pay them for their web content or if advertisers flock to newspaper websites in sufficient numbers to offset the revenue lost to the ink-on-paper enterprise. One or both of those options is likely to happen. If they don’t, newspapers – and the journalism they produce – could die.”
Yes, the Internet doesn’t produce news. But neither does newspaper. Or delivery trucks. Or paperboys. They all distribute it.
The choice isn’t between breaking with tradition and start charging for news (because it’s always been free to readers) and getting more advertising (and more for advertising). The only real choice is advertising. And the only way advertising is going to pay the bills is to get more online readers. And that isn’t going to happen if we start charging for content.
Please, let’s stop talking about how to bilk our readers and concentrate on building web sites they’ll want to make a habit. My question for Mr. Clifton is what contribution has he made to that end?
(NOTE: In context, Mr. Clifton makes a impassioned and worthy plea to readers to see the value of great journalism. Rather than platitudes taken from journalistic hymn book, he offers real examples of why professional journalism is important. That said, its our responsibility to make journalism pay, not the readers. If we believe in journalism, we will find a way to succeed within the realities of the market. If not, we will perish. We can’t count on our readers to save us. We must save ourselves. Every journalist has a responsibility to contribute to the task.)