By: Joe Strupp
Credibility, Diversity, Readership Are Key, Says Anderson
WASHINGTON – To survive, newspapers must focus on community, said the
president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), N.
Christian Anderson, president and publisher of The Orange County
(Calif.) Register. The keys to success in the community are
credibility, diversity, and readership, he said.
On credibility, Anderson cited ‘the magnitude of problems we have
encountered in the past two years.’ Although he didn’t mention them by
name, his reference obviously pointed to the Los Angeles Times/Staples
Center profit-sharing debacle and the numerous incidents of reporters
being fired for plagiarism or improper sourcing.
His advice: fact-check, admit and correct mistakes quickly, and make
accuracy a priority. ‘We cannot be leaders in our community when we are
not reliable,’ he said. ‘If our brands are tarnished, why won’t
information customers go elsewhere?’
When discussing diversity, Anderson applauded the gains in newsroom
hiring, but urged editors to keep up the effort to bring in more people
of differing backgrounds, and to cover news from different ethnic,
social, and income levels.
‘When we take the time to ask readers how we portray their communities,
too often we hear frustration and anger,’ he said. ‘Their mirror shows
a different picture, and it says we have not connected.’
Finally, speaking about the need to improve readership, Anderson
pointed to the newspaper as part of the community, saying it needs to
do as much as possible to both cover and be a member of the community.
‘We must know what people are thinking about, worrying about, and
talking about,’ he said. ‘We need to know how people are making
decisions that we don’t cover. We need to remember that PTAs are as
vital to the functioning of a school as any principal – and far more
than any board of education.’
Joe Strupp (email@example.com) is associate editor for
Editor & Publisher magazine.
(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher