Editorial: To Freedom

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By: Nu Yang

Since 1992, 1,200 journalists have been killed. I learned that figure at this year’s World News Media Congress in Washington, D.C. As the names of the deceased scrolled in white text on a black screen during the opening ceremony, it was a somber reminder that the press is needed now more than ever. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports 30 journalists have already been killed in 2015—and those are just deaths with confirmed motives. Each death represents one less voice speaking out against injustice and cruelty.

Around the world, men and women are fighting for the freedom of press. I met some of these journalists in D.C. They spoke on panels, shared innovative ideas over coffee, discussed hard lessons during lunch, and listened to colleagues on the exhibit floor.

Despite the conference’s solemn start, positivity filtered through the ballrooms inside the Washington Hilton. I found that media executives around the world shared the same struggles as their U.S. counterparts. Is print dead? How do we attract millennial readers? What’s next for digital? How do we stay relevant in the overflowing media landscape? But we shouldn’t fret. News professionals are actively seeking solutions and often, they are creating those solutions themselves. They are no longer waiting to “see what happens;” they are taking action.

This month’s cover story features Australia’s top four publishers collaborating in a national marketing campaign to promote newspapers. Named Influential by Nature, the campaign is a fine example on what happens with publishers put their heads together and come up with a lifeline. It’s the same kind of forward thinking we hear about at conferences, but why should publishers wait to gather once a year to talk about their big ideas in front of an audience? Why not start a movement now?

For example, as I write this editorial, the Newspaper Association of America is searching for a new president and CEO. It will be interesting to see who the NAA names as Caroline Little’s successor. Whoever is hired has to be knowledgeable about the ups and downs in the newspaper industry, understand the curves and dips, and be ready to hit the road running. As the NAA plans its next phase, it could become a turning point for everyone involved in the success of newspapers. But I’m curious to hear, who do you want to see as the new face of the NAA?

So, is print dead? How do we attract millennial readers? What’s next for digital? How do we stay relevant in the overflowing media landscape? Whether we’re a newspaper in the U.S. or a newspaper in Japan, these are all legitimate questions. But are we putting together enough resources to guarantee that the freedom of press endures, that the legacy of the 1,200 journalists killed in the line of duty isn’t forgotten?

In D.C., WAN-IFRA president Tomas Brunegård said newspapers are operating smarter, leaner and faster, but they haven’t given up on their core values. As we wait for the NAA’s announcement, perhaps this new leader will rise up and rally the troops together ala Mel Gibson in “Braveheart” and charge into battle, armed with truth, justice, and freedom.

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