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Oct 7, 2008

Opinion: Newspapers fail to build on their strengths

Ed: Another writing focused view of the newspaper industries that ignores the economic strengths and weaknesses of the newspaper business. 

Opinion: Newspapers fail to build on their strengths

Posted by Lauren Drablier on October 7, 2008 at 1:57 PM
In a recent speech, former of the editor of The Age, Michael Gawenda, gave his opinions about the newspaper industry.  Gawenda believes that changes taking place in the news industry are causing more problems and they are failing to "produce newspapers that attract the sort of fierce and life-long loyalty they once attracted."

Gawenda believes that "it is a failure of imagination and commitment, a result of a lack of experience and knowledge and love of newspapers" that is causing content, readership and revenue to decline.  

He went on to stress the importance of change in the industry, "but for real change, courage is needed, and vision and risk-taking and, above all, a commitment to newspapers and journalism that, frankly, I do not see at the moment."
Another problem that Gawenda focused on was the fact that many newspapers do not have control over their websites and as a result "all the talk of newsroom integration is rendered meaningless."

He went on to comment "one of the great mistakes newspapers have made in recent years is that they have tried to address their weaknesses rather than build on their strengths. So we have shorter stories, bigger headlines, more graphics, more bells and whistles, more tricked up, overblown pages, more and more pages that are meant to look visually rich but, in the main, look desperate and garish"

Gawenda also believes that "newspapers need to get smaller, clearer in their focus and that "most of the lifestyle sections should migrate to online."

"Newspapers must not become what The Independent in Britain has become: in the phrase used by its present editor, a viewspaper. The Internet is awash with commentary.  This is not to say that newspapers should abandon commentary and analysis. But commentary should really be just another form of reporting: tell me something I have not thought about. That can be done only by people who know more about a given subject than I know. Too many columnists actually know less than their readers."

Finally, Gawenda stressed that stories should be well written and compelling, "well edited and with headlines that are smart and, if possible, entertaining but, please, no lousy puns, which it seems to me have become the standard newspaper headline in some places.

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