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Friday, April 17, 2009

Oregonian Executive Editor Peter Bhatia on "The Death of Newspapers."

Posted by Matt Davis on Fri, Apr 17, 2009 at 1:55 PM

Bhatia was talking about the future of newspapers at City Club today:

"Newspapers will get smaller in size," said Bhatia. "They will be more local, analytical, and focused in content. I think you'll see the further migration of breaking news to the web. We'll move away from traditional sectioning and our long established model of reporters on beat. We'll have areas of expertise and depth, but fewer areas, and even more depth."

Sound familiar?

"Let me make this simple and clear," said Bhatia. "The Oregonian is not going away." "The Oregonian has had one bad year," he said. "This last year, and as far as we know, it's the first bad year we've had."
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PETER BHATIA: TALKED ABOUT "OPINIONS OF RANDOM BLOGGERS" AND SO ON...

Bhatia said he thinks the idea of nonprofit foundations and charging for content aren't viable models for keeping newspapers alive. But: "Serious efforts are underway to help newspapers recapture revenue lost to the web," he said. "Will it be enough to recoup the losses we've made? No. But these efforts will lead to some hybrid."

You can listen to the whole remarkable discussion tonight at 7pm on OPB. "Heck, even I have a Facebook page," he said. "We're not perfect. But we're here, we will be."

Inspirational.

Bhatia also said the invention of the "Kindle" device, which lets readers view newspapers and books electronically, is part of the "baby steps" in the right direction. "There is still a group of people, admittedly most of them over 40, who still like to hold a newspaper in their hands," he said—looking forward to a new Kindle innovation that may recreate the sensation of turning an actual newspaper page. "My mother says you can't take a laptop into the bathroom," he said. For reals. More apres le jump.

"Sites like Digg are especially popular with young people," said Al Stavitsky, associate dean of the University of Oregon's school of journalism. "But sites like Digg are essentially parasitic."

"You might have seen me tapping away on my iPhone, I wasn't rudely checking my email, but I was Tweeting," said Stavitsky. "So the news is out there in what's called these days, the statusphere."

"But citizen journalism is no substitute for on the ground reporting," Stavitsky said. "And citizen selection of content on sites such as Digg is no subject for the judgment of professional editors who take their role as society's watchdogs seriously."

Former primary candidate for Senator Jeff Merkley's seat, Steve Novick, asked Bhatia whether the fact that "old fogeys like me" are less willing to pay for news might lead to the Oregonian running more "headless body in topless bar type stories." Novick said he would support such a model, since "the future of democracy is at stake."
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NOVICK: WOULDN'T MIND TABLOID SHIFT TO KEEP NEWSPAPERS ALIVE...

"Why yes," said Bhatia. "We're going tabloid Sunday." Kidding! "Readers tell us all the time, give us more and charge us more," he said. "But at the same time, every time we raise the prices, the phones ring off the hook. The reality is that in today's society, people will pay $75 for their high speed internet but when the time comes, $15 a month for the newspaper is the first thing that gets cut."

Bhatia also said that "Headless Body in Topless Bar" is "the best headline ever written." So at least we agree on something. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to take my laptop into the bathroom.

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