Letters From the Issue of Thursday, June 21, 2007

Page 2 of 3

It's a tricky business. I am not sorry to not have to compete with myself, but a lot of the fun of newspaper work, at one time, lay in reporting fast on deadline and then meeting another deadline, and then maybe another, with a still better story.

The online work is a modern version of what reporters did in the really, really old days of six and seven and eight editions a day (with two, three or four competing newspapers in one city).

None of it excuses a newspaper from putting out a scrunched version of itself and then saying that the readers wanted it. Nonsense.
Dan Hortsch, via the Internet

Wheres the narrative?: I read your compelling story about the Republic, which raises the issue of Web newspapers and the fate of storytelling, especially long-form narrative journalism. The newspapers that fail to understand that their dedicated readers care about the compelling true stories of our time, thoroughly researched and with touch of literary genius, will surely fail.

Let not your heart be troubled. If the Arizona Republic wishes to follow the whimsical opinions of a mere 1,200 respondents, and bid "adieu" to narrative journalism, then another newspaper will pick up the mantle. Narrative journalism is here to stay.
Mitch Land, director, Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism, University of N. Texas

LOL at Rep BS: I quit getting the Republic a year ago, and although I read about 1,000 feeds a day in Google Reader, I don't get I do get New Times' feed, and Steve Lemons' blog, the Feathered Bastard, however. Everything else I can get from the Business Journal and Google News. When I saw, by picking it up in Starbucks, the BS in the Republic about the Monday paper for a busy reader, I almost laughed out loud.

Keep those validation letters for comments on your articles big and bold for those of us who have been with New Times since the beginning.
Francine Hardaway, Phoenix

A newspapers Darwinian struggle: The Arizona Republic, like most major newspapers across the nation, has been steadily losing subscribers. For years, up until the most recent survey — when compared with its brethren on a per capita basis — it has been at the top for loss of readership. For reasons why, see the dead fish in your cover photo. It is the most valuable thing you found in the Republic.

As for revenue, Craigslist has destroyed newspaper help-wanted ads with its free ads. It is hard to compete with free, particularly when it is easy to submit ads to Craigslist.

Combine that with a wrecked economy in which businesses, looking to cut back on expenses, think they can shave newspaper ads, and you have a new paradigm for news outlets.

How the Republic, or any news media outlet, will sustain a profit in the future is going to be interesting to watch. The Republic provided some of the first, and best, online access to newspaper contents in the nation. As younger people, who have less "need" to hold the printed word in their hands, grow up, and displace the generations who still love the feel of the daily paper in their hands, more and more revenue must come from online. Survival of the fittest is ensuing.
Powell Gammill, senior editor, Freedom's Phoenix

Call it corporate surrender: As a former Republic employee who helped launch, allow me to explain the reality: Large newspaper Web sites like the Republic's can be and often are profitable — when supporting a staff of about 40. Under the current model, it cannot support a staff that covers state and national issues. At least not effectively.

It's clear to me the shift toward generalization is not a positive future for journalism. Despite the best intentions to revive an industry, the shift is one of corporate surrender — to Google, to, to television, to the sheer cost of newsprint in a culture more sensitive to ecological issues. Journalism is not going to simply shift to a less-expensive publishing platform. It's going to transition into something irrelevant. The art form of earnest beat reporting and challenging authority will die as a corporate venture, not because it costs too much, but because big corporate thinkers fail to realize that great content begins with a personal vision that operates outside of focus groups and market demographics. It requires financial commitment to the cardinal truths established by the great journalism of the 20th century. That's true in any platform, print, digital, or otherwise.
Name withheld by request

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