Friday, February 27, 2009

You’ve got to accentuate the positive…..

Recession! What recession? There’s a bake sale to cover!

The changing of the guard at the Daily News is bringing an apparent change in direction as far as what a newspaper should be these days.

Across North America many newspapers are struggling to retain their readership, with a good number of them looking for solutions to dwindling readership and revenues. For some it's too late with some well known papers closing their doors forever, others have entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy, while many seek to reinvent themselves as fast as possible to try and maintain their operations.

In Podunk it seems, the road to success will be on the wave of the Good News format. In an editorial in Thursday’s paper, the new team at the Daily outlined their dogma as far as what their newspaper shall be in this community.

We suspect that the change in mindset will be steering the paper away from many might consider to be hard news, you know that uncomfortable stuff that might make a person think and seek to make change.

Instead, we anticipate that you will be seeing a lot more pictures of your young ones at school, at sports at church bake sales and such...

We’ll probably hear about some great funding programs to come, but wonder if we will soon begin to read less and less about the issues that reflect the need for them.

It sounds like a risky move for what was once a pretty good record of what was happening on the North coast, once upon a time there were some very good investigative reporters on staff that sought out those uncomfortable stories that might not be much of a fit in the new era of journalism out of Second Avenue West..

The change at the Daily could provide an opportunity for the Northern View to find a larger readership, especially if the gap between what they report and what the New Daily provides grows too apparent, though it seems at the moment that they are both heading somewhat in the same direction.

The Northern View however is limited by their once a week approach to deadlines, which usually leaves them a week behind the news cycle, with the exception of their occasional postings to their website which have proven to at least understand that the Internet can be used to enhance your product and provide a conduit to the print edition.

The change at the Daily, as it’s been described certainly seems to signal the end of a journalistic era of the past for the long time fixture, one where News was news. Whether it was good or bad, now those less sunny stories may still get covered as indicated in the editorial, though one wonders if they will ever find space between the bake sales and church groups, celebrations of commercial endeavors and of course all those darn cute kids at school and play that we sense will soon be all through the paper.

The troubling thing about the editorial was the new think outline that if negatives are constantly recited then negative results will follow, so stress the positives and the positives come. Nice pop psychology but not particularly effective for what was once the record of events on the North Coast. It seems to suggest that the readers can't handle the truth, that we are unable to understand the troubles of a community, while still celebrating its successes.

Apparently in the new era and definition of journalism, if we only cover the stories of recession, of crime and other elements of daily life, well we may just not look at all the Super, Terrific Greatness around us it seems.

Even better, maybe if we don’t hear about those uncomfortable issues, well then maybe they don’t exist!

The proof we guess will arrive with the monthly circulation rates and the ad lines to come, there probably will be many that welcome the respite from the reporting of those things that aren’t happy, aren’t pretty and may be a tad controversial, but none the less those too need to be examined thoroughly.

One wonders how many Podunkians will wish to pay their daily stipend of seventy five cents for the new look and new viewpoint of the paper. Unless it's your kid in the paper, you have to wonder if it's not smarter to just head to the library and browse through their copy of the paper and leave them the seventy five cents.

There may be a short burst of interest, especially on picture day if the kids are front and centre, but eventually one wonders, how long before the delivery of the Daily News on the doorstep becomes but a nano second pause in the process before it gets tossed in the bin for recycling rather than reading, at least for those folks that actually still care about news.

The editorial challenges other media to follow their lead, a rather boastful challenge that we’re sure has been well received at other media outlets in the region, a challenge which if nothing else, indicates that hubris, probably will apparently rule the day on the pages of your daily newspaper.
For those that missed the Editorial and in the quest of balance and factuality, the ambitious Daily Blue print is outlined below.

Prince Rupert Daily News
February 26, 2009
Page four

One of the common themes mentioned by several speakers at the Opportunities North Economic Summit held in Prince George last week was the role that consumer psychology plays in the economic downturn.

In particular, the impact of the constant barrage of negative coverage spewing forth from the media since last fall as the crisis developed ... or as one politician referred to it, "The nattering nabobs of negativity".

In short, you can't have a good recession without the help of the media.

While the initial effects were felt on Wall Street and Capitol Hill, the tone and nature of the coverage by most of the mainstream media in Canada, would have made you think that Ground Zero was Bay Street and Ottawa.

At times the media seemed disappointed that things here weren't as bad as in the US.

Journalists in general are taught that their job is to just report the news, not make it. Nonsense: By its very nature the media exercises bias if only by what stories it chooses to cover and the treatment they receive in their publications or news broadcasts.

People love drama, real or imagined, and none so much as journalists who are taught that "if it bleeds-it leads". Bad news sells.

As a result, we see a media obsessed with covering every possible nuance of the economic slowdown, often in an effort to support their chants of impending financial doom.

Many of the larger media outlet like CBC, CTV and the Globe and Mail will even commission their own polls, just to convince us, as if we needed it, that things really are worse than we think.

Nowhere was this better illustrated than at Christmas, when the Guardian newspaper in the UK ran a story about how bad things are in the retail sector, even while they were interviewing thousands of people lined up for hours outside shops in London's High Street, waiting to pounce on bargains galore.

Whether they like it or not, the media has a responsibility for the psychological impact of the news they cover - and how they cover it - on the communities, readers and viewers they serve.

Nowhere is this more critical than during a recession or a war, when the media can playa crucial role in supporting or undermining the will of the people to support the cause of defeating a common enemy, be it economic or military.

One of the biggest blockbuster documentaries in recent years was a movie called “The Secret” The premise was we attract into our lives that which we think about the most. . Negative thoughts beget negative results and positive attracts positive. When we feel good about ourselves, we seem to attract more good things. There really is power in positive thinking. As a newspaper serving over 20,000 readers a week, we here at the Prince Rupert Daily News have a vital role to play based on the effect our coverage has on the minds and attitudes of our readers.

If we choose to fill the front pages of our newspaper with negative and "bad news" stories, we can't be surprised if our readers start to think that everything in our city and region is going to hell in a hand basket.

That does not mean of course that we will censor, distort or sugarcoat the news so that only positive items appear in our papers. A good newspaper should be a reflection of the community that it serves, and the reality is we live in an incredible city, filled with people who are doing some pretty amazing things.

Most of what happens here is great stuff, and our paper needs to reflect that reality, not the reality of some broker on Wall Street.

We here at the Daily News accept responsibility for doing our part in working our way through the current economic difficulties. Our papers will continue to strive to reflect the reality of our city and our readers, mostly positive, sometimes not so.

At the same time we challenge the other media outlets, radio, television and print to follow our lead.

There will be days when we may stumble in this endeavor - "please be patient. God isn't finished with us yet."

Together we will weather this latest storm, just as we always have. That's what they mean when the say "the Spirit of the North".

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