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Don't read this!
June 24, 2009 - Jody Murphy
I feel like a twisted version of Tinkerbell. If you are reading this there is a good chance that somewhere out there another newspaper reporter is losing their job.
Maybe the five readers (Hi Mom!) of this blog noticed my three-part series of stories on the Bailey fire a few weeks ago. A lot of our on-line readers certainly did. According to Executive Editor Jim Smith and Internet guru Art Smith, the series received a huge number of hits and comments. That's really great. ... If you are online reader.
As a reader, I love the Internet. I scan 20 to 30 newspapers a day and another 20 to 30 assorted websites every morning looking for news, tidbits and pictures of Hallie Berry. As a reporter, a fellow trying to eke out a living as an semi-humble ink-stained wretch, it is a sure sign of the Apocalypse.
According to our newstand sales figures, the three days my Bailey series ran, we sold less newspapers than we did over the same period last year. Why? Because we post everything local on our website.
I can't understand why we are in effect giving away one of the best features of our product.
As far as I am concerned free content online is contributing to the rapid decline of newspapers.
To me, the newspaper industry — actually, any members of the Associated Press — should not post anything of importance on the Internet until after it appears in print for our subscribers. Two reasons: One: By reading a complete a story online, it becomes old news in your morning paper and two: If the story is online why bother with a newspaper subscription?
Advertising revenue drives our industry, but readership sets the pace. That being the case, I have to wonder why are we posting content on the Internet for free? Nobody clicks on an internet website for the ads. Online ads will never generate enough revenue to justify a print staff. And charging subscriptions for Internet access to newspaper stories hasn't worked.
The newspaper industry is hurting right now. Many large papers and chains are hemorrhaging cash and threatening to shutter. There are several reasons for the industry-wide meltdown, one of which is the Internet, or more to the point, the availability and frequency of information on the Internet.
When a national story breaks in the afternoon, by the time the morning paper hits your doorstep the following morning, you have been saturated with coverage via the 24-hours news networks and the Internet. That leaves us with local and regional coverage; council meetings, accidents, crime, high school sports, etc., etc.
In order to keep pace with the Jones (i.e. the messageboards and other media outlets that use the Internet to post breaking news) we are developing stories to be posted on the website. Which to me is training people to check the Internet for news rather than the good old reliable morning paper.
I don't have the answer.
I'm not even sure I have the problem pegged. If I do, I expect a promotion, a larger salary and a corner office with a cute secretary to match.
Members of the Associated Press, or the West Virginia Press Association need to band together and refuse to allow bloggers, messageboards and other members (fellow newspapers, televisions and radio stations) to post content on the Internet without paying for it.
So stop reading this online and purchase a subscription. And save a journalist's job.
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Stop reading stories online and purchase a newspaper.