Tuesday, July 24, 2007

He Said Don't Read Into It

But We Will

Posted By on Tue, Jul 24, 2007 at 4:00 AM

The Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review has done an awful lot to pioneer online journalism. They've got editor blogs, reader blogs, and they even Webcast their editorial meetings, something we'd never do at BW (there are some things that just aren't suitable for sensitive readers).

Now, Spokesman Editor Steve Smith has a few leading questions for readers that have us wondering: Is the S-R ready to dump print?

Of course, he's not saying that the paper is ready to do so. He carefully adds caveats to his post.

But the wheels are clearly turning in that direction, if you read his recent online blog post, a segment of which appeared in the popular Huckleberries Online column.

Smith starts with a grim discussion of the news biz as he sees it today:

"Declining ad revenue, much of it from the classified advertising bucket, is killing newspapers around the country. Circulation is declining, readership is declining. Newspapers are slashing budgets, eviscerating staffs, cutting sections, putting advertising on Page 1 and so on."

And then he hits the questions:

1. Is there a future for a mass market print daily newspaper such as the SR? If so, what will that paper look like in 5 to 10 years?

2. If you were the editor, what segments of our community would you try to serve with your newspaper? What segments of the community would you consider peripheral to your success?

3. If you had to cut sections of the paper or content segments, what would you choose and why? (Please don't read anything in to that. I'm just curious.) What would you add?

It's a pretty gutsy set of questions for an editor to pose. Although Smith called them merely thoughtful questions for "a slow summer day," they're still some pretty loaded queries.

Time will tell just what sort of direction he takes the paper.

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