What's Black, White And Dead All Over?

In case you didn't catch the story, the newspaper business is in deep trouble. But there's more to it than the challenge of going digital.

Thanks to a last-minute concession by the unions, the Boston Globe is still printing today. Time will tell if that is still the case in a year. Meanwhile the New York Times is struggling with debt payments having sold off much of its two-year-old headquarters and borrowed $250 million on steep terms from billionaire Carlos Slim. 

The clear challenge for the papers is to depart from a print business model-- largely dependent on classified advertisements--and scale the 24-hour online news cycle. To this end, the New York Times has recently rolled out two new initiatives, the Times Wire and the Times Reader 2.0.

The Wire, developed by the Client Technologies, reads like a web blog and posts links to the Times’ online articles in a headline-based feed that updates every minute. Similar to CNN’s News Wire, the Wire is a clear move to make a deeper leap into the 24-hour news cycle while not compromising on powerful investigative reporting. 

The release of the Times Reader 2.0 heralds a paperless version of the paper. Currently priced at $15 per month, and free to paper subscribers, the new version does not carry any advertising.  

Yet for all the adjustments newspapers are making to their product, it appears that a key problem with newspapers' core competency – reporting – is sneaking up on them. Newspapers are losing seasoned  reporters to newsroom staff cuts and now new reporters are more hesitant than ever to enter the profession.

As reported in a recent Bloomberg article, the best and brightest are wary to sign up. From The Harvard Crimson – which has produced 12 Pulitzer Prize winners and prepared generations of journalists for newspaper careers over its 136 years – just three of the 16 graduating seniors on the Crimson executive board are seeking positions in journalism. Even the departing managing editor is not entering the profession, opting instead for Teach for America.

While newspapers have been battling to make themselves relevant and profitable in the 24-hour digital news cycle, newly trained reporters have seen the trends and are jumping ship before it even sets sail. The larger question, of course, is what happens to good reporting when good reporters abandon the presses? 

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