When former New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan made her debut as a media columnist for the Washington Post a few months ago, she wrote an encouraging column (wapo.st/1OIHMu3) about how 20-something journalists have a chance to make a real difference in our troubled field, therefore, they can save journalism.
“Given the challenges, what’s needed most are journalists—of every age—who are willing to help figure out the future with passion, smarts and integrity,” Sullivan wrote. “Yes, we’ve got some big problems, but it’s far from crazy to try to be part of the solution.”
At this point it’s a cliché to say it, but it really is an exciting time to be in journalism. The reality is journalism now exists beyond newspapers and social media platforms. The media has morphed from something we are all trying to understand. We can mold and shape it to however we like—it may sound dangerous, but I hope this is the “chance” Sullivan was alluding to in her column.
I know for many of us in the industry, we can’t take chances anymore. Not when we have to make payroll. Not when we have to keep our doors open. But I’m telling you, we still need to take them.
Three years after Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, we’re still asking him why he purchased the newspaper. The New York Times reported (nyti.ms/1r2AOdv) that at a recent Recode technology conference, Bezos said “he bought the newspaper because he wanted to make it into a more powerful national—and even global—publication, and that the Post was well situated to be a watchdog over the leaders of the world’s most powerful country.”
“If it had been a financially upside-down salty snack food company, I would not have bought it,” he said.
Step aside, potato chips. Bezos decided to take a chance on newspapers, and since he became owner of the Post, the newspaper has reported (wapo.st/1O6aOZV) a 70 percent increase in page views year over year, 48 million visits from mobile users and online visitors spending more than 15 minutes on Post platforms. The company continues to make smart moves, from its ongoing list of new hires to selling its Arc Publishing technology to other media outlets, such as the Alaska Dispatch News, Willamette Week in Portland, Ore., and Toronto’s Globe and Mail.
Of course, the Post is an exception. It was already a strong brand before Bezos came along, and not every struggling newspaper can find a billionaire to save it. So, here’s our chance for newspapers to find new and inventive ways to save themselves, and as Sullivan said in her column “be part of the solution.” I see the steps we’re making in clever marketing campaigns, in virtual reality storytelling, creative advertising ideas—it doesn’t always have to feel like we’re standing on a cliff, looking over an edge. But if we do jump, let’s make sure we have a parachute strapped on tight.
This month, our feature stories focus on the best of both worlds: print and digital. Our digital publishing columnist Rob Tornoe writes about how Facebook and media companies can play nice with another. Writer Gretchen Peck touches upon many topics—from ad blockers and paywalls to longform journalism and local engagement—to find the answer to an age-old question: “How do we get people to pick up newspapers again?” Adreana Young looks at the latest digital strategies being created in newsrooms around the country—and the digital leaders who are working behind them. I hope one of these stories inspires you to take a chance.