By paulgillin | April 24, 2008 - 10:21 am - Posted in Business News, BusinessModel, Classifieds, Journalism, NewMedia, Newspapers

The New Communications Forum conference brings together some of the leading thinkers in social media for three days of discussion about where media and marketing are heading. Increasingly, journalists are in the audience and on the agenda. This year, the Forum devoted one of its five tracks to the changing face of journalism.

There are some young, smart and visionary young journalists in the crowd. They understand that the world is changing and they’re not only prepared but eager to lead the charge. Talking to them gives you confidence in the future of journalism.

But they all cite the same problem: editors don’t see the need for change. “We’re still explaining to editors why reporters need to blog,” said one San Jose Mercury News journalist. “They’re very focused on the print publication which, after all, generates most of the revenue.”

Print is, indeed, the cash engine at newspapers, but it’s generating less and less green while the future of the business is clearly online. While many newspapers have made efforts to integrate their print and Web operations, the commitment is half-hearted, journalists said. “The print staff still sees the online reporters as second-class citizens,” said one online editor.

As positive as these young journalists are about the future of their profession, one gets the sense that they’re frustrated and restless. They’re trying to effect change from within but running up against too many roadblocks. It seems unlikely that many of them will stay with their current employers for long. “I’m here trying to drink up as much as I can to improve my own skills,” said an editor at an east coast daily. “If I need to go out on my own at some point, I want to be ready.”

McClatchy Earnings are Worst of a Bad Lot

McClatchy reported some of the worst results of any newspaper publisher for the first quarter, with revenues sagging 13.8%. The company was particularly hard-hit in California and Florida, which accounted for 56% of the chain’s revenue decline. Among the eye-popping numbers: classified revenue was down 25.7%, led by real estate advertising (down 35.8%), help-wanted ads (off 33.4%), and automotive business (down 16.1%). As reported earlier, McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt sees no bottom to the downturn.

Wall Street is hammering newspaper stocks. On an up day for the Dow, three newspaper issues hit all-time lows.

Even Free Papers Feel the Pinch

Metro International SA, which publishes more than 100 free daily newspapers in 23 countries, saw revenue decline 6.1% in the first quarter. The publisher is feeling the same ad pinch as its subscription-driven peers. “The U.S. market is probably the worst it has been since the 1930s for media companies,” Metro Chief Executive Per Mikael Jensen told The Wall Street Journal. Metro plans to cut about 20% of its U.S. staff and is reviewing its New York, Boston and Philadelphia properties for possible sale.

WSJ Airs Dirty Laundry of ME Ouster

Outgoing Wall Street Journal managing editor Marcus Brauchli was under careful scrutiny from the beginning by News Corp. management, which wanted to see rapid change at the paper and which was frustrated from the beginning at Brauchli’s reticence to expand the Journal’s scope, shorten stories and write punchier headlines, according to a piece in Wednesday’s Journal. The paper airs its dirty laundry in a nearly 2,000-word article that details how Brauchli was kept out of the loop on changes in production and design and yet was seemingly unaware of long-brewing plans to replace him.

Brauchli was given his walking papers in a meeting about two weeks ago, although the story says Brauchli offered little resistance. He’ll stay on as a consultant. The Journal’s committee on editorial independence is supposed to approve the choice of a successor, but the rapid pace of turnover at the paper would indicate that Rupert Murdoch won’t look favorably upon too much opposition.

Members of the Bancroft family, who opposed the Journal’s sale to Murdoch, say they’re not surprised by the turn of events. “This is why I was not in favor of selling the paper to that man,” said Jane Cox MacElree, who controlled 15 percent of the family’s Dow Jones shares. “Words mean nothing to him, unless they’re his.”

And Finally…

  • Philip Stone thinks the unthinkable: editorial and advertising departments should work more closely together. It’s been done before, he says. The two operations team up on an idea with sales appeal and then go their separate ways to fulfill the mission. Purists will had this idea, Stone writes, but “editorial must now surely understand its very jobs depend on how well advertising does its job. And any help editorial can give to advertising to bring the bucks in should be par for the course.”
  • Two environmentalists disrupted a speech by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. One ran on stage and heaved a pie at the writer. Friedman tried to duck the flying confection, but it caught him in the face and torso. No one was injured and the woman and her accomplice were arrested.

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