Throughout the years, my New Year’s resolutions have helped me lose 30 pounds (and gain 50 back with no help from resolutions). I’ve never given up on the idea that the new year is a great time to pause, evaluate and make changes I need to make. Here are seven resolutions newspapers ought to make in 2019.
- Improve your newsroom diversity. Let’s go with the no-brainer first, but it needs saying. The country is split—along economic, ethnic and gender lines. We are in the midst of an historic “Me Too” movement and still women are under-represented on the big stories. According to a 2017 report by women in the U.S. media, “Female journalists continue to report less of the news than do male journalists” in the top 20 news outlets— and the difference was “especially glaring in TV news.” When it comes to ethnic minorities, only around one newsroom in eight is even responding to an annual survey. If you assume that those who responded did so because they weren’t ashamed of their ethnic minority hiring, then the 22 percent figure terrible. The number of ethnic minorities in newsroom is still far below what America looks like. Resolve to make at least some progress in this important area in 2019.
- Create a wider gulf between yourself and Facebook. This is a data collection company that uses the news we pay for to build their businesses. The new Congress is anti-high tech and the executive of media companies are fighting for permission that would allow them to bend anti-trust rules and band together to negotiate new terms with Facebook. Most of us normally favor free market solutions to business problems, but Facebook is reasonably close to running our government and we need to keep them from using our content to build their business.
- Figure out your podcast strategy or enhance your podcast strategy. Reuters has done some intriguing research on how people access news on smart speakers (think Echo and Alexa) and the results will not surprise you. While these are not quite podcasts, the research transcends: People want more news—updated more frequently—in quicker bites. They want to make it easier to skip around past the dull parts. I’ve written previously about this important avenue to reach audiences that continue to grow.
- Make a real effort to find local experts to cover the fields you used to cover when you had more reporters, i.e., philanthropy, faith, business. I am on the other side of the fence now, as a community member who reads my local newspaper and who misses coverage of certain beats it used to provide. So find local experts in these fields and train them to write newsy columns on the most important beats you are not covering because your staff is smaller.
- When it comes to breaking news, figure out your game and play it. Smaller staffs and earlier deadlines mean less and less breaking news in tomorrow morning’s print edition. Frankly, I don’t expect much in the way of breaking news from a printed product that is 12 hours old by the time I get it. What I do expect is stories I can’t read anywhere else. We have huge wildfires in Southern California where I live, and TV keeps me constantly updated. My favorite story in my local newspaper during the recent fires explained to me what life is like in the firefighters’ encampment when they are getting a break.
- Try to figure out how to reach millennials. They are going to vote in 2020. They are going to get information somewhere. They do not love your traditional models of website news and ads so you have to figure out another way to get them. There are some innovative websites and plans out there having success with young people.
- Meet and associate with people who do not work in government or in journalism. We need to know more people outside the newsroom and the local government agencies. We will relate more closely to them when we find out what their lives are like.
Tim Gallagher is president of The 20/20 Network, a public relations and strategic communications firm. He is a former Pulitzer Prize-winning editor and publisher at The Albuquerque Tribune and the Ventura County Star newspapers. Reach him at [email protected].