Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Newspapers may be around for a bit longer, yet.
At least, that was the thought heading into the House congressional hearing focusing on the financial problems facing the newspaper industry.
The committee was chaired by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), and was developed “to protect the independence of newspapers…to thrive in a new economic and media climate.”
The staged seemed set. Perhaps the time was ripe for the turnaround of an iconic industry.
But then the hearing started.
Only three of the 20 Senate and House committee members actually showed up for the panel.
But maybe it’s alright that the interest on the part of Congress was, let’s say, thin, because newspaper representatives made it clear that they really aren’t looking for help.
John Sturm, president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America, testified in front of the joint economic hearing.
The “industry is not seeking a financial bailout or any other kind of special subsidy, something that would not be appropriate for an industry whose core mission is news gathering, analysis and dissemination,” Sturm told the three congressmen who bothered to show up.
This is good news. Today, it appears everyone is looking for a bailout of some sort. Many experts say the economy is starting to turn around, but industries aren’t necessarily beginning to feel it, and most Americans aren’t, either.
On my way to Chicago this past weekend, I set my cruise behind a rusted, green Toyota Camry driven by an older man. For the better part of 50 miles, “Need help? Hire me, full time or part time” stared back at me from the hand-painted signs above the license plate.
America is still hurting, and the newspaper industry has been hit just as hard, probably harder, than any other.
Newspapers face a one-two punch from a lack of advertising due to the recession and the emergence of the online news industry. The answer, then, is a comprehensive change of strategy, not a government handout, and it appears Sturm knows it.
The problems faced by newspapers don’t necessarily extend beyond the newspaper business and into television and other media.
The large profit-driven news corporations, mainly television, are also the most ideological. FOX News and MSNBC alike feature sensationalized reporting and commentary and are driven on by advertisers that support the networks’ particular political agendas.
With the extreme polar opposites portrayed in the television news industry, at least the left will keep the right in check, and vice versa. But it comes at the expense of everyone in the middle, the viewers-us.
Newspapers have largely attempted to remain above the fray. Despite a few papers falling to the level of unquestionable political endorsement, most have stuck to the rigorous, objective reporting of the news.
Newspapers have, until recently, been slow to change. But learn they did, and many offer online coverage and services that rival the best multimillion-dollar television newsrooms.
Illinois State University alumnus James Tyree, chairman and CEO of Mesirow Financial, placed a $25 million bid for the struggling Chicago Sun-Times. If Tyree’s investment group and the newspaper’s union workers can come to an agreement, he hopes to enact a number of business reforms to turn the newspaper around.
In the end, newspapers are businesses, and like any other business they will not survive while implementing poor strategy and showing a resistance to change.
It appears the newspapers aren’t willing to accept a government handout, and if they were they probably wouldn’t get one. Under the right leadership and with the right strategy, maybe they won’t need it.