By: Joe Strupp

President Addresses ASNE Meeting

WASHINGTON – President Clinton told newspaper editors today that the
‘old-fashioned newspaper’ will actually become more relevant as the
Internet expands because newspapers remain the best source for accuracy
and analysis.

‘Somebody still needs to organize and give perspective to all of this
information we are being flooded with,’ Clinton said during a luncheon
address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), which is
holding its annual convention here this week. ‘People will still need
to know more than the facts, they need to know what to believe and read
it with some perspective.’

Clinton’s comments followed a short speech in which he urged editors to
provide complete coverage of the ongoing budget debate and the use of
the growing federal surplus. He also emphasized the need for increased
reporting on the 2000 Census.

After the speech, Tom Koenninger, editor of The Columbian in Vancouver,
Wash., asked Clinton if he had any critique of the press during his
final year in office. Smiling, the president responded, ‘I realize I’m
not running for anything anymore, but I’m not completely dumb either,’
Clinton quipped to the laughter of many. ‘I know what I’ll get for my
constructive criticism is a bump on the head.’

But, instead of taking the opportunity to bash the press that has
reported on everything from his sex life to political failings, Clinton
responded with praise for a profession he believes ‘has a hard job to
do.’ Saying he understands how difficult it is to report balanced news
on a daily basis with deadline pressures and financial constraints,
Clinton told the group of close to 600 that he admires their work.

‘I think it is hard to run a newspaper today in an environment where
you are competing with broadcast news, radio, the Internet, and
entertainment that abuts news,’ Clinton said. ‘It is very challenging
to run an old-fashioned newspaper where you don’t get caught up in one
point of view.’

Clinton then told the crowd that he still gets most of his news from
newspapers because they are portable and can be read at any time. ‘This
will get me in trouble with the networks, but because of my schedule,
my only source often is newspapers,’ he said. ‘I watch CNN a lot, but I
am usually never home in time for the network news, so I rely on

The president went on to predict that newspapers will grow in
popularity during the information age. ‘This whole communications
revolution is exciting, but it runs the risk of giving people more
information than they ever have received without proper perspective,’
Clinton said. ‘So much of what people will need to know about will
involve science and technology, which will need to be better explained,
and newspapers do that best.’

Clinton’s hopeful outlook drew positive responses from the ASNE crowd,
many of whom agreed with his statements, but still worried that readers
may not realize the need. ‘It was a ringing endorsement,’ said N.
Christian Anderson, publisher of The Orange County (Calif.) Register
and outgoing ASNE president. ‘It was significant. I was overjoyed by
what he said.’

Doug Clifton, executive editor of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland,
agreed. ‘It is comforting to hear someone of his stature give a vote of
confidence,’ he said. ‘But, ultimately, people’s news consumption
habits will be based on what they are, not what someone says they
should be.’


Joe Strupp ( is associate editor for
Editor & Publisher magazine.

(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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