FUTURE OF THE MEDIA: ‘We Are in Uncertain Times’

MELVILLE, N.Y., February 5, 2009, The Press Club of Long Island, the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, presented a forum focused on today’s troubled economy and what that means for the future of the news media on Long Island. The discussion centered on how local media companies plan to cope.

Included on the panel were Newsday Publisher Tim Knight; Stuart Richner, of Richner Communications, which owns the Herald Community Newspapers chain; Jed Morey, publisher of Long Island Press; and Bob Papper, chairman of the Department of Journalism, Media Studies and Public Relations at Hofstra University. John Kominicki, president and publisher of Long Island Business News, moderated the panel.

We are in uncertain times for the country and therefore in uncertain times for our business, Knight said.

While most everyone on the panel agreed that they started to notice the decline in late 2007, they also saw some positive things happening in the summer of 2008.

From the community newspaper perspective, Richner commented, In 2008, across the country community newspapers started to hit their stride. They have the kind of content you don’t see on the Web.

What Richner and many of the others noticed were that there were those advertisers who had been advertising in the dailies that were using us.

Morey’s focus is to take an alternative outlook to the news. As the alternative to the mainstream, we hit a population that isn’t going to pick up a trade publication or a daily. We are a mirror of the community. We are what the community wants us to be. Our goal is to take a little deeper, a little more thoughtful and different viewpoint than the mainstream.

Papper’s compared broadcast to print. What’s happening in TV is not a parallel to what is happening in newspapers. For broadcast media, 42% of its revenue comes from news and that hasn’t changed. Most of what is happening in broadcast is a response to the economy (and the layoffs) and when that gets better, so will it. A bigger hit for newspapers is losing the classifieds and that is never going to turn around.

In fact, the decline in classifieds is what has hit the print media the hardest and it is free

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sites like Craig’s List, which has taken away that revenue. Knight commented, Craig’s List has taken that online probably forever.

All the media was in agreement that the Web as an addition to their media is critical for survival. We see a lot more people going to our Web site to see the local news, Richner said.

Morey added, Like any of us we are going to have to take our migration to the web very seriously; that marriage is very important.

Added Papper: What the Internet allows is junk food all the time.

It was some of the final comments that truly summed up the evening.
I have a family. I have to find a way to make this work. This is hand-to-hand combat for every advertising dollar. It’s being really smart about what news you put out there. It is a much more challenging business, noted Knight.

Our thing is broken and people don’t want to pay for it anymore and we have to figure that out, concluded Morey. And from the audience, The preferred consumption for kids is continuous nuggets.

Maybe a constant stream of Twittering and texting is the answer, added Kominicki.

Thought-provoking topics such as this are planned for the months ahead by PCLI, the local professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. In addition to monthly programs and mixers, membership includes an annual (June 4, 2009) PCLI Media Awards dinner, which honors the best in local journalism, a fun Holiday Party showcasing the singing and witty talents of some of its members, a Media Guide listing all L.I. media and more.

The next PCLI program is scheduled for March and in April PCLI will be hosting Ethics Month panels at Hofstra and Stony Brook. Visit the web site to find out dates and locations.

The Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism organization with 60 pro chapters and 250 student chapters totaling 8,700 members nationwide.

PCLI’s mission is to protect and advocate for First Amendment rights and to educate its members through programs such as these.

For more information, and to keep abreast of future programs, visit http://www.pcli.org or e-mail chapter president John C. O’Connell at John.PCLI@mac.com.

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