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John Temple is the former editor of the Rocky Mountain News, the Denver newspaper that ceased publication in 2009. Under his editorship, beginning in 1998, the paper won four Pulitzer[…]

John Temple Searches for Innovation.

Question: Who are the leading voices on the future of media?

Temple:    You know, on a national level, you have to pay attention to the social media world and I think, I mean, I try to understand or be it sometimes dimly the Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, stumble upon, dig, that world.  I think that’s really, really important and I try to look to that world.  The same that I look to people like CNN.Com and USA Today… I mean, I look at some of the big players but I think there’s… and then there’s innovation on the local level, I mean, if you look at what their doing at the Las Vegas Sun in Nevada where the web team is being very innovative and adventurous and the owner is really trying to invent what he would call the new newspaper.  I look to those people and one thing I learned as an editor is I don’t have all the good ideas, what I need to do is have open ears and listen to others and essentially try to… steal is too strong a word, it’s quite… it’s kind of the wrong thing but essentially be open to when there’s a good idea and embrace it and bring it into… to pursue it and so I think the biggest danger for the newspaper industry is for all of us to think that we’re in the newspaper industry.  And that that is what our role is and that, instead, we have to say that we are in the information knowledge entertainment and I say entertainment ‘cause we publish comics for a long time and people really love comics and anybody who underestimates the value of entertainment in a newspaper, doesn’t really understand what a newspaper does for people.  Well, you know, okay, so how do we do that in this current world and how do we make money out of it and I think what we may have to happen is the giants may have to fall.  Some of these big companies are literally going to fail, we’re going to make such serious mistakes that we’re going to create a new landscape in which more new companies can emerge, not that new already haven’t emerged but that more will emerge because the failures… let’s take the bankruptcy in Minneapolis, the bankruptcy in Philadelphia, what’s happening with the Tribune Company.  I’m not saying there’s a guarantee that they’re going to collapse but it’s quite possible in some places they’ll make such big mistakes that they’ll clear the way for a new company to come along.  Can those new companies be smart enough not to think of themselves as newspapers but to recognize that there’s tremendous value still in print or the print type experience even if it’s on electronic paper or some film or the Kindle or whatever.  So, I look all over the place, I mean, the music industry, iTunes is a good place to watch, I mean, look at how people embraced iTunes, I mean, everybody has an iPod, I mean, essentially would we have said that people spend that kind of money to have a little thing that they could carry around music?  Well… I don’t the newspaper industry is going to be the innovator, I think, it’s going to come from somewhere else.  What’s important for the country is that we have this robust media environment and I don’t think it’s guaranteed but I’m not pessimistic that it could happen.  But part of the reason why I think free enterprise is so important to this ‘cause somebody is going to want to go, “I’m going to figure it out and I’m going to be successful and I’ll be able to expand my idea and I’m going to make money,” and those are good motivators. 

Question: Do you digest news in a hyper-multimedia way?

Temple:    Yeah, I mean, I think… I do… I mean, part of my job is so crazy as I have too much, you know, I work too much or I did… I used to work too much, now I don’t have a job but yes I do.  I enjoy the bounce… I enjoyed being… it’s one kind of experience.  I also liked to read books, I also like to read magazines but the idea when I want to hear, “Well, what is that John Temple like?”  I don’t want to just know what the New York Times reporters said John Temple was like or what he said, I want to hear them and I want to make my own judgment.  I love it that I could just click on that video and up it plays, I mean, if you look at the sale of our newspaper in the closure of our newspaper, think about it, the President of a company comes on to the work floor and is videoed by his employees and in a matter of minutes, his address to the staff is shared with the world.  There’s no hiding from that and how can I not think that that’s better?  I think that is just great ‘cause as the consumer, I can make my own judgment, was the guy a real guy?  Was he genuine?  What’s the tone?  Were they pricks or were they, you know, dealing with an understandable difficult problem in a reasonable and humane way?  And so I just think it’s great.  What do I think of the quality of journalism that’s being done at this point?  I don’t think we’re there in terms of having the skill set, generally, to do the rich multimedia database and the type of journalism that eventually will emerge but it’s happening because the younger journalist bring a lot of skills to the table and the journalist of the future are going to have to be multi-dimensional.