Friday, May 13, 2016
Print publications large and small have long struggled with rapidly diminishing ad revenue, fewer eyeballs, and stiff competition from online media sources.
Public Relations consultants for business and political clients have more and more utilized and relied upon online media and social media to the detriment of print publications.
In politics, especially, print media has shot itself in the foot by failing to consistently offer balanced and responsible journalism. Given the slash and burn nature of the economics of the newsroom, it's not surprising that coverage has suffered. But there's literally no reason why this must necessarily result in shoddy, unbalanced coverage of political candidates or mere "horse race" and process stories.
In business, too, pay-to-play (stories for payment) have become the norm in many cash-starved papers. I recently went to the press release submission page of a prominent Florida newspaper, only to find that it offered publication for a "subscription." Whatever that is it's not journalism. It sure isn't "earned media."
So print media, if it's not dead, exactly, may be on life support. There's actually no solution to this problem except a complete re-dedication to journalistic excellence in the print media profession.
Papers, however cash-strapped they may be, must recommit to sending out reporters to actually cover the business community, political leaders, elections, and the people and places that are committing hard news within the readership area. Fluffy feel-good stories and police blotter stories have their place, but over-reliance on these tends to cheapen journalism.
I have seen political candidates who either have gotten perfunctory coverage, or none at all, because the newspaper had a favorite candidate or party, and decided on its own to filter out all candidates who did not meet their standards or biases of its editors. If they believed this would prompt ad sales, this has actually had the opposite effect, in many cases.
Many political campaigns, for example, have simply ignored the dead tree media and have focused almost entirely on new, online media, especially social media, which is becoming increasingly popular among voters as a source of both news and political information.
Businesses and the consultants representing them are also less enamored with the negative changes in print media, and are turning to alternate ways of reaching out to present and future clients and customers. And of course, ad revenues spiral ever more downward as a result.
And instead of "pay to play," which is ethically revolting as well as defeating the idea of earned media, news releases that are sent on behalf of candidates and businesses (and are actually timely and news-worthy) should actually prompt news stories that are balanced and fair.
Does Print have a future? Sure. But it can only have one if it re-dedicates itself to the fundamentals of journalism, including fairness, balance, and equality of access by all parties involved in an issue.