No More Lectures. Only Conversations

Chris Waddle, director of the Knight Community Journalism Fellows writes in the, delivering more bad news to newspapers.

“Modern media advocates from the American Press Institute love to stump newspaper executives by asking if they can identify Craig Newmark. Few can. Too bad. He’s the inventor of, the highly successful classified ad alternative spreading like a virus on the Internet. When editors asked the head of Knight Ridder newspapers what keeps him awake at night, he answered “online advertising.”

It’s not just the loss of revenue. Buying stuff online is a major activity of the young, non-readers of newspapers. Ads are news too. So attract the youthful pocketbook and you’ve got a new customer for a virtual information community.

Most newspapers try to please existing readers instead of potential ones, according to journalist and scholar, David T. Z. Mindich in “Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don’t Follow the News.”

Seeking different readers is why multiculturalism is so important in the newsroom.

When a news organization consists of white people speaking to white people about black people, as an example, its influence on public affairs such as school reform may diminish in a multi-cultural community of communities. Economic influence with advertisers may diminish if ads don’t reach young consumers.

The generational shift means editors can no longer talk down to readers or define news without consulting readers. No more lectures. Only conversations.”