A large grouping of newspaper publishers have joined together and launched a public relations campaign to inform readers that, yes, newspapers are still relevant -- despite the financial hardships and layoffs of thousands of employees industry wide.
Unfortunately, the PR campaign does not seem to recognize that one of the main problems that newspapers are having is with their own content, not just the economy and the Internet.
A new ad funded by some 300 of the nation's newspapers informs readers that 100 million newspaper customers forms a larger audience than that of the Super Bowl. Additionally, this cooperative of newspapers created a website called Newspaperproject.org to further the cause. There, the group will post pro newspaper industry stories and further ads to encourage readers to stick with newspapers as an important news source.
But, it seems that at least one of the industry's troubles is not being addressed: catering to readers' interests. "The crisis has to do with revenue, not with audience," said Donna Barrett, director of The Associated Press. This seems to miss the important issue of content and also seems to say that the newspaper industry is ignoring one of its chief failings.
Many people are turning away from newspapers, not just because of a bad economy or a new reliance on the Internet, but because they no longer trust newspapers as a legitimate news source. The slanted, leftward bias hidden behind a thin veil of legitimate reportage is getting readers fed up. People are just sick and tired of the faux stance that these papers are "unbiased" or unpartisan. Readers too easily see through the veneer to the leftward bias informing much of what newspapers publish.
Many would not mind so much if these papers simply admitted their obvious bias. At least then the lies and obfuscation that goes with pretending at being nonideological would be dispensed with. And there would be ample precedent for such an admission. After all, there was no such thing as any assumption of an "unbiased" newspaper until the 1960s. For much of our nation's history, each newspaper in each town in America had an open and admitted viewpoint that was vigorously pursued.
Heck, in the 1800's politicians even had their own newspapers to promulgate their own policy ideas and viewpoints as well as their own candidacies. No one expected to pick up Speaker of the House Henry Clay's campaign newspaper and read an "unbiased" story! Everyone knew that people reading Clay's newspaper was a Clay man.
In any case, PR campaign or no, it doesn't seem like many of these newspapers understand why they are losing readers. It isn't only because the Internet is replacing them as the chief mode of getting the news for Americans today. It is because they just aren't held in very high regard by the reader. Until this seminal problem is addressed, not doubt the PR campaign will not bear much fruit.
(Graphic credit: Colorado State University)