‘The greatest crisis in American journalism is the death of local news,’ plus a bleak outlook in Reading and Seattle’s tips for converting readers to subscribers

Your Thursday news roundup

May 23, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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May 23, 2019

Good morning! Here are some of the media stories that are catching our attention today.

Take note

The New York Times’ executive editor made some remarkable observations about the future of journalism.

One of the country’s leading journalists thinks newspapers are just about dead. This flew under the radar, but last week, New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet made several provocative comments that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Speaking before the INMA World Congress of News Media, Baquet had dire predictions for the future of local newspapers.

“The greatest crisis in American journalism is the death of local news,” Baquet said. “Their economic model is gone. I think most local newspapers in America are going to die in the next five years, except for the ones that have been bought by a local billionaire.”

Other than knocking on billionaires’ doors, what can be done?

“I don’t know what the answer is, but I think that everybody who cares about news — myself included, and all of you — should take this on as an issue,” Baquet said. “Because we’re going to wake up one day and there are going to be entire states with no journalism or with little tiny pockets of journalism.”

Baquet said he isn’t worried about big papers such as the New York Times or Los Angeles Times, but he is worried that the model for covering, for example, local school boards across the country could disappear.

“That makes me nervous,” he said.

As for President Donald Trump, Baquet said he prefers not to respond to the president’s attacks on the paper, but feels the need to when Trump “lobs something that’s so forcefully aimed at our integrity.”

Baquet talked at length about the president during his interview, but he would not reveal what was said when Trump once called Baquet to complain about something.

“I’m trying to decide whether I can say. … I think I’m going to save what he exactly said for my memoir, if I ever write one,” Baquet said.

Running out of options

The news out of the Reading Eagle Company continues to be bleak.

Last week, I wrote about the bankrupt Reading Eagle Company and its potential sale/auction. The situation looks uglier. MediaNews Group was the only one to offer a minimum purchase bid of $5 million. If the deal goes through, the Reading Eagle reported there will be deep staff cuts.

The paper reported that MediaNews Group, also known as Digital First, would hire new employees and current staffers not rehired won’t receive severance. Digital First also would close down a radio station (WEEU) that is owned by the Reading Eagle Company. Attorneys for the Reading Eagle said they don’t see a good option. They can either agree to the sale or shutter the company.

Digital First owns the Denver Post, Detroit News and San Jose Mercury News, among many other papers.

She’s our King

Gayle King’s star is rising, even after decades in the business.

Gayle King. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

Love this lead by NPR “On Point” host David Folkenflik: “Gayle King is an overnight sensation decades in the making.”

How true. King has been in television and journalism since 1981 and a co-host on “CBS This Morning” for the past seven years. But her star is clearly on the rise in recent months. King, 64, has a new contract believed to be worth $11 million a year and she’s emerged from CBS’s recent controversies and woes as the centerpiece of the news division.

In an interview with “On Point,” King said, “My advice is always the same to everybody: Just go on and be yourself. The audience can always tell if you’re faking it. I don’t like that fake-y, happy talk banter that I see some people do. If you don’t have anything to say about something you don’t have to speak.”

‘We learn so much about who we are’

Major grant to ‘PBS NewsHour’ means increased coverage for the arts.

Look for more art coverage from the “PBS NewsHour.” The show announced Wednesday the expansion of CANVAS, its broadcast and digital arts initiative, with a $1.7 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. “PBS NewsHour” said the expansion “aims to improve public access to and engagement with high-quality art and elevate the work of recognized and up-and-coming artists.”

In a statement, “PBS NewsHour” executive producer Sara Just said, “PBS NewsHour has long covered the arts because we believe that through the arts we learn so much about who we are, what challenges we face and the dreams and experiences that define us.”

Profitable in Seattle

One of the nation’s most pioneering newsletter editors offers tips on converting newsletter readers into paying customers.

In 2015, the Seattle Times launched a daily newsletter. Last year, it converted 2,000 readers of that newsletter into digital subscribers. That amounted to 8% of all new subscriptions in 2018 and generated more than $400,000 in profit.

The writer and editor of that newsletter, Kris Higginson, will teach a Poynter webinar today at 2 p.m. Eastern on how to make your newsletter essential for readers. (There’s still time to sign up.)

In a Q&A with Poynter’s Mel Grau, Higginson was asked what the newsletter’s biggest success has been.

“People want help navigating their lives,” Higginson said. “We are most successful when we can be immediately useful to people.”

Trump is a ‘master’ of Twitter

But the company’s co-founder said he believes Fox News is vastly more powerful than the social media site.

President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Some days, it feels like the discourse on Twitter is going to be the end of us all. But Twitter co-founder Ev Williams thinks there is something way more politically divisive than Twitter.

In an interview with CNN Business at the Collision tech conference in Toronto on Tuesday, Williams said, “The vast majority of the electorate is not on Twitter reading Trump’s tweets and being convinced by that. What they’re convinced more by is the destructive power of Fox News, which is much, much more powerful and much more destructive than Twitter.”

Fox News did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Williams also said that Trump is a “master” of Twitter and that how he’s used the platform is “pretty genius, frankly.”

The jobs section

McClatchy hires its first female news vice president, while Front Office Sports adds some big names.

McClatchy announced that it has named Kristin Roberts vice president of news, overseeing the news group in the company’s 30 newsrooms. She will also oversee McClatchy Studios, the company’s long-form audio and video documentary production unit.

According to a release, Roberts will be the first woman to lead the news operations in the company’s162-year history (Eleanor McClatchy served as the company’s CEO from 1936 to 1978). Roberts has been the executive editor for politics and regional editor for McClatchy’s eight east coast newsrooms. Before that, she was the national editor at POLITICO, where she led coverage of the 2016 presidential race.

Front Office Sports, a website that covers the intersection of sports and business, announced two significant hires on Wednesday. Ian Thomas, formerly of Sports Business Daily, has been hired as editor. And Michael McCarthy, a longtime sports media writer at The Sporting News and USA Today, has been named senior writer. McCarthy will continue writing about sports media, as well as business and marketing.

Hot type

A curated list of great journalism and intriguing media.

In this 2015 file photo, a rat crosses a Times Square subway platform in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

  • The New York Times’ Winnie Hu with a piece that sounds like the tagline for a horror movie: “Rats Are Taking Over New York City.” And, by the way, New York isn’t the only place with a vermin problem.
  • The key to covering the 2020 election? More women, according to the latest Mother Jones Podcast with host Jamilah King, the race and justice reporter at Mother Jones.
  • Brilliant photos in this New York Times piece remembering a 1943 massacre in Eastern Europe. Photos by Maksymilian Rigamonti and text by Sara Aridi.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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