January 15, 2003

Service, Context, Dialogue

Service, Context, Dialogue

Pam Johnson, the former executive editor of the Arizona Republic and now a Poynter faculty member, reports in from the Newspaper Association of America's conference on Readership and the Future of Newspapers with gloomy news - newspaper readership continues to circle the drain and what readers remain are dying off.

The bearer of the bad news was Peter Francese, founder of American Demographics magazine, who shot out these bullet points for the conferees:

* The numbers of households that report buying any newspapers are declining among all age groups.

* By 2007, if trends continue, only one in four young households will be buying a newspaper.

* College grads and married couples, our core readers, show similar declines over time.

* Spending for online access now far exceeds what is spent on newspapers. The only people who spend more money on newspapers than online is the 65 and older age group.

These facts, says Johnson, "underscore(s) the urgency with which newspapers must approach their changing communities." Of course, I agree.


Yes, says Johnson, journalists must "believe in and contribute to the quality of core responsibility of the newspaper -- informing our communities. This is our primary mandate."

Francese offers this action set: "He urges newspapers to be the utmost authority on their communities. He says papers should be developing databases that will be tools for better subscriber service, more service journalism, more context for local news and more dialogue with readers."

More service, more context, more dialogue. Enough said.

Except for this: Johnson moderated a panel at the conference. In the interest of dialogue with readers, disclosure would have been in order.

 Pam Johnson Strategic Leadership

Posted by Tim Porter at January 15, 2003 07:13 PM