Bob Stepno's Other Journalism Weblog
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Monday, August 4, 2003

Can research save newspapers?

Newspaper executives recently came up with the above list of topics they would like to see get more attention from the research faculty of journalism schools. A central theme is, "How can we attract a new generation of newspaper readers and avoid going the way of the dinosaur?"

Now that I've turned on this weblog's "comment" feature (see the bottom of this message) -- and if anyone is reading it -- I'll pass along your suggestions to the academic "mass communication research" world.

(It wouldn't hurt to e-mail a separate copy of your comments, although the blog-note approach should be fully tested Thursday night.)

The newspaper research questions immediately made me think me of Jon Katz's 1994 Wired piece, Online of not, newspapers suck. They also reminded me of the classroom response when I asked students what they liked about the free Metro daily. The zero price, the shortness of the stories and the easy crossword puzzle were things I expected them to mention.

The surprising answer was a "user interface" angle I hadn't thought of: The students especially liked the staples holding Metro together!

Attention to details can make all the difference, whether that means fact-checking to keep a story from falling apart, or metal fasteners to keep pages together... As an old American newspaperman [almost] said, "For the want of a staple..."

If you haven't seen it, Metro is an international chain with U.S. papers in Boston and Philadelphia. Now the Washington Post has decided to launch its own "commuter" publication, headed by the former editor of Boston's Metro.

I wonder if it will have staples?
9:02:22 PM    

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