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Phillip (& others): your thoughts on newspapers

  • Phillip, I wonder what you think, as a former newspaper man, of the demise of newspapers. I remember vividly reading an article in the Weekly Reader in elementary school in the 1970s. It was forecasting that one day we would read our newspapers on TV screens. I thought that was crazy. But today that is pretty much true.

    I love the internet and the instantaneousness of the news, but I still miss in a way the relevancy of newspapers. But for local news, I probably would not subscribe today to my local newspaper. The wire stories that fill probably 70% of the space are old news. It seems the only healthy newspapers today are pretty much the small town weeklies. And that is because their news is not covered on the internet too much. So the internet has not hurt them that much.

    I remember going to law school in B'ham, and looking forward to The B'ham Post Herald in the morning and the B'ham News in the afternoon. Both had NEWS. Other than little blips on the radio, there was not much of a way to learn of recent events other than the newspapers. So readers looked forward to the news and I loved the sports columns. And that was not that long ago (mid to late 1980s).

    As a teen in high school, I subscribed to The Auburn Plainsman. I loved getting all that Auburn news delivered right to my mailbox.

    I also miss the old The Sporting News-- back when it was in a more newspaper format. I loved all the stats in that weekly. Of course, the internet killed such a thing because now those stats are but a click a way.

    Like I say, I love the internet. But it killed an old friend-- the newspaper. And that is a little sad to me.

    This post was edited by bcofmc 13 months ago

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  • I spent 10 years working at Florida's largest newspaper, the St. Pete Times (larger than the AJC also), and I like the web because I can get my news when I want it -- and right after it happens.

    The fact papers have fallen is largely their own fault.

    I don't mean delivery of the paper. That was always going to slowly die off. I mean, the business aspects.

    They were slow to change. Then most gave everything away for free on the web. Then they cut staff.

    For papers, the biggest loss of revenue came through ads --- and primarily classified ads. Everyone used to use the classifieds. But when Craig's list came along, and made the same thing free, it crushed the papers.

    As usual, the papers were slow to react.

    Newspapers, even the best ones, are FAR too slow to react. Always 4 steps behind.

    More people now than EVER before read the news. Stats back this up. But papers haven't been able to figure out how to tap into that.

    That is on them.

    At the Times, I used to say, look around the newsroom. We have the best journalists from all the top journalism schools. Columbia, NYU, Missouri, UNC, Northwestern, Florida .... Now, look at or business dept. Did they go to the best business schools? The reality is the best journalists go to the best papers. The best business people go to Wall Street. Also, too many papers have old journalists running the business side.

    It's a mess. And it will probably stay that way.

    Keith Niebuhr On Twitter: @Niebuhr247

  • Very interesting perspective! Thanks, Keith!

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  • Throughout college, newspaper decline has been a theme. Everyone knows it and now everyone is seeing it. Sure some of the content is great, the journalists are top notch, and the tangibility is comforting, but it's dying. As I've slowly dipped into this industry, everyone around me has said that I'm making the right decision. Not the journalistic aspect, the Internet aspect. Honesty, writing for a newspaper was never an option. I was presented with this opportunity and haven't looked back since.

    This post was edited by Austin W Penny 13 months ago

    Austin W. Penny on Twitter: @awpenny247

  • I still read The Dothan Eagle every day. It is not much, but I do get to turn the pages. They are so weak on anything that has to do with Auburn, I go to the Auburn-Opelika News online,
    AUC daily, and to see what the trolls have to say on any Auburn article, AL.com. I have to say, without the staff at AUC I would probably have sports withdrawal.

  • Yep. Its all about change management and decisional risk assessment. Managers in most newspaper organizations didn't do a good job at either concerning the topic at hand. So other communications giants took over. Change is part of life. You cope with it or you don't.

  • Obviously, the decline of newspapers makes me sad. Newspapers have been part of my life for all of my life. Some of my favorite memories are going to The Birmingham News on Sundays with my father. I can still see the ceiling fans twisting slowly, the old upright telephones at each desk and the black typewriters.

    The Internet changed everything. No longer did people need to wait for the newspaper to get the news. They could get it instantly.

    Newspapers didn't respond as well as they could have, but they were quickly swimming upstream. I still don't think they are responding very well. Part of the problem is that newspapers were cash cows. Owners and shareholders who got accustomed to making 30 percent profit found 7-8 percent profit unpalatable.

    I'm honestly confused by some of what has happened. The Huntsville Times, my former newspaper, was a profitable operation and a newspaper that a lot of hard-working folks took a lot of pride in making something special. It has now been reduced to almost nothing. The Birmingham News that so many of us grew up reading was certainly profitable. What it has become would be devastating to my father and others who worked so hard to make it what it was.

    Instead of being newspapers and doing what newspapers do, many newspapers have become mostly web sites whose only real purpose is to generate page views by whatever means necessary. Real reporting has become seriously endangered.

    Don't get me wrong. There can be and is quality reporting on the Internet. We certainly like to believe we have that here. But when thousands of people in the newspaper industry have been laid off, when salaries have been slashed, the result is predictable.

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    Keith Niebuhr On Twitter: @Niebuhr247