Leary: ‘Still a great future for newspapers’

With bad news about the media industry being spit out as fast as you can say Tweet, you might expect Michael Leary, managing editor of the bankrupt Philadelphia Inquirer, to have a pretty sullen view of the future of the news business.Well, maybe a little. But let’s not throw in the towel just yet.What’s happening in the business is not the end of days. There is still a great future for newspapers.

Leary, speaking to crowd of college and professional journalists at the SPJ Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards lunch at Temple University on April 25, said that while the traditional newspaper business continues to falter, as the combination of a deep recession and the loss of classified ads to online competitors turns old revenue models on their heads, he doesn’t think the solution is with the Web alone.

The Internet is not necessarily the answer to monetizing the news.

So what is the answer? No one knows for sure, he says, but it will likely include paid premium content. No matter what, he said, print will be an important component.

As for jobs, it’s an old message: He expects reporters to be literate in the Web while learning to use video.

And while everyday people in the right place at the right time, such as during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and the London subway bombing, increasingly disseminate important information faster than traditional news outlets, Leary says there will always be a place for watchdog journalism.

There is certain news that happens right in front of you. And then there are things people don’t want you to find out about. Uncovering secrets to help change society keeps journalists the guarantors of our freedoms.

Other notes on the SPJ Region 1 Conference

From left: Miserandino and Corry at the silent auction table.

From left: Miserandino and Corry at the silent auction table.

PCLI board members Carl Corry and Dominick Miserandino attended this weekend’s SPJ Region 1 Spring Conference at Temple University in Philadephia on behalf of the board. Here are some highlights.

Live and silent auctions raised $988 for the Region 1 Fund, which supports expenses by the Regional Director, who represents more than 1,000 SPJ members in Region 1 — comprised of New England, New York, New Jersey and western parts of Pennsylvania — and helps to establish chapters in the Northeast. Auction items included a trip to four-day trip Orlando, Fla., a $200 certificate to a top Philly restaurant, an original, signed Walt Handelman cartoon and a ride on News 12 Long Island’s helicopter.

One cool thing was ongoing Twitter updates, some by SPJ attendees, but mostly by those from an adjoining conference, called Bar Camp. You could see Tweets run immediately onto two 42-inch flat-panel TVs in the lounge area. Follow the banter at #bcniphilly on Twitter.

From the Region 1 Leaders Business Meeting

Starting in 2011, SPJ will be teaming up with the Radio-Television News Directors Association for a joint national convention in an effort to stop competing for speakers and resources. SPJ President David Aeikens said the goal is to gradually add more journalism group to the mix for the event to become the No. 1 source for professional development. Aeikens stressed that SPJ’s traditions, including the elections, debates, awards dinner and presidential installation, would not be compromised.

The Deadline Club, SPJ’s New York Chapter, proposed hosting the 2010 Spring Regional Conference in New York as a joint effort with Connecticut and New Jersey. They called it an intrachapter regional. Pending approval by the individual boards, New York would spearhead the effort.

Aeikens mentioned that National could run future regionals. He even said the national board is considering doing away with regionals entirely. In the end, the NY proposal won out, contingent on approval by the boards of the three chapters. The next would likely be in Boston, and we may test National running the show there.

Aiekens said the SPJ Executive Board will be considering a retool of the Star Ranking system for regions at its May 15 meeting.

This year’s National Conference will be held Aug. 27-30 in Indianapolis to celebrate SPJ’s centennial anniversary. SPJ was founded in 1909 in Greencastle, Ind.

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