A Sign of the Print Apocalypse
On Sunday, May 13, just a few hours after touching down at Washington Dulles International Airport, I fought the jetlag and headed to the Newseum to see New York Time’s media reporter Brian Stelter. In the world of print journalism, Stelter is, as one source put it, the “embodiment of the confluence between new media and old.” In his college years at Towson University, he started a blog called “TVNewser” that quickly became the standard for finding out the inner-workings of the news business.
The Times, impressed by a Stelter’s work, hired him directly out of college. Now at 26, he is still arguably one of the most active users of social media among mainstream reporting today. From Twitter to Tumblr to Instagram, Stelter often creates and consumes content, even posting drafts of news stories for feedback on the social web. Most recently, he was featured in the documentary “Page One: Inside the New York Times,” where he starred along with veteran reporter David Carr. In the film, one gets a sense of just how connected Stelter is, surrounded at his desk by a television, laptop, landline telephone, and cell phone, all of which are active.
A healthy chunk of the talk reflected upon the new emergence of digital publication and media assumption. In recent years, sales of print newspapers have decreased rapidly leading to lost ad revenue. Stelter himself does not subscribe to the print edition of the Times, only buying the Sunday print edition at a newsstand each week. Inevitably, this has led to transitions within the industry itself, specifically within the paper’s leadership. Up until recently, Bill Keller was the Executive Editor. Keller was a print man through and through; it was what he knew and what he did well. Old-school journalism, if you will.
Today, the executive editor of the New York Times, and first female head editor, is Jill Abramson. What Stelter told the audience about next made me realize the sea change that is currently occurring within journalism.
Jill Abramson does not go to A1 meetings.
For a little more context: A1 is the front page of the paper, and the A1 editorial meeting is where they decide what stories will be featured on the front page. According to Stelter, Abramson no longer attends.
Where, you might ask, does she spend her time then? The web edition meeting. Abramson is actively involved in deciding what goes on the front of the web page.
To me, this is a clear sign of the direction where news and media are going. If the Executive Editor of the Times, the Old Gray Lady itself, is more focused on web than print, the fate for tactile newspapers is sealed. Stelter predicts that print editions will become somewhat of a luxury product and I tend to agree with him. Coming from a family that still subscribes to print editions of the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Washington Post, and the New York Times, my parents feel a lot of connection to these products, as do I. That said, with advents in technology such as Apple’s Retina display, reading on a device is becoming more appealing than ever.
Brian Stelter is a great example of a journalist who gets it: he knows what is coming, but also seems ready to adapt. I hope that we can all do the same.