Newspapers get it from all angles these days.
Purists often decry the fluff—glossy lifestyles sections and inches devoted to celebrity hijinx and party photos. At the same time, social media pundits revel in dwindling circulation numbers as indisputable evidence of an industry disrupted.
And while the positions of both newspaper traditionalists and micro-bloggers may seem antithetical in this fuss, they’re both bleating about the same phenomenon.
When someone reads the Saturday paper, he or she already knows the news. Did we open our papers in spring 2014 and almost spit out our coffee telling a loved one that Russia invaded Ukraine? Of course not.
But we—at least, some of us—did open them.
We opened them to read informed analysis of the situation in Donetsk. We opened them to better understand historical claims to the Crimea. We opened them for opinions and thoughts that moved beyond the “what” and the “who” and into the “how” and the “why.”
The era of traditional journalism is ending. In its place are two distinct and opposing approaches: one borne of the digital revolution, the other a response to the first.
In the first camp are sites like BuzzFeed and Gawker (whose tagline betrays its position so succinctly: Today’s gossip is tomorrow’s news), sites whose sole raisons d’être are attention-grabbing headlines, punchy “reports”, and spewing forth as much content as possible.
Some traditional media outlets, in turn, have responded to this by focusing on a position of strength: in-depth reporting and profound analysis, from media voices that have built trust with their readership over years.
Outfits like The Globe and Mail, New York Times and even Vice are proving that just as much as people want information now, they want information done properly. (Would anyone argue that Vice’s approach isn’t working?)
For evidence of just how much readers value independent analysis and a strong writing voice, one needs only look at Twitter followers for the Globe’s columnists versus their reporter colleagues. Although it’s obviously a very superficial analysis, it would seem that people like something the columnists are doing.
André Picard: 31.9K
Doug Saunders: 27.5K
Marcus Gee: 13K
Elizabeth Renzetti: 5,827
Michael Babad: 5,074
Leah McLaren: 3,332
Campbell Clark: 2,558
Barrie McKenna: 2,087
Konrad Yakabuski: 1,163
Omar El Akkad: 4,086
Jeff Gray: 3,227
Carrie Tait: 3,129
Nathan VanderKlippe: 2,993
Brent Jang: 2,461
Tavia Grant: 2,205
Janet McFarland: 2,204
Jeff Jones: 1,794
Sean Silcoff: 1,244
Richard Blackwell: 873
(All numbers taken on 2 Feb 2015.)