Future of newspapers still bright, Tribune editor says

The state of Utah has lost 15 newspapers in the last decade, eight of those being small weeklies that were folded into and delivered with larger newspaper subscriptions. Even so, newspapers are not dying, nor are they dead, Salt Lake Tribune editor Nancy Conway told journalism students at Utah State University Tuesday. “Newspapers, through print and online editions, are reaching more readers than ever before,” she said. While newspapers and news media aren’t dying, they are changing, as is the way the public gets their news is changing. With advances in technology, from laptops to cell phones, news outlets have begun accessing online publishing and social media in order to reach audiences. “News is everywhere these days, or at least it seems,” she said. Hard copies of newspapers are still preferred over online content, with 60 percent of the Salt Lake Tribune’s readers buying subscriptions. Online publishers often face problems when it comes to creating revenue. Advertising flourishes in print media, but it’s harder to get advertising dollars for online news sites. Online news providers can charge readers to view web content, but this isn’t often a realistic source of revenue considering readers may just visit other sites in search of the same information for free. The New York Times began charging readers for viewing online content starting yesterday. Charging for online content only works if the news organization is providing something unique to readers that they can’t find anywhere else for no cost. Journalism is changing, but it won’t die, Conway said. There will always be a need for information to be analyzed and put in context for the public by reliable and credible sources. “If you care about your community, if you care about your country, if you care about democracy, you have to care about journalism,” she said. Conway also discussed HB 477 and the role of media in its repeal. During the legislative session, one hearing was conducted on the bill and everyone who spoke at that hearing spoke against it, she said. The bill was signed within 72 hours of its inception and seemingly without much notice to or discussion from the public. “We were this close to closed public records. We were this close to government in secret, government in the shadows, not in the light,” she said. The bill drew the attention of several media outlets, including the Salt Lake Tribune, who were concerned with what the bill would mean for open records, government transparency and ultimately democracy. Once the media told the story of HB 477 to the public, citizens took charge and reacted against the bill. The Legislature repealed the bill days later. “That’s democracy in action,” Conway said. The repeal of HB 477 demonstrates the power the media still has in educating the public, and also how much the public relies on news media to provide important information in a timely manner. “What a lesson in lawmaking and the role of the press,” Conway said. – rachel@cvdaily.com

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