Editors Challenge 500-Pound Gorilla

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By: Joe Strupp

The message at this year’s American Society of Newspaper Editors conference was clear: Get with it!

The 600-plus editors and other journalists who gathered for the annual confab, held between April 12-15, were urged during speeches and panels to boost readership by sparking new design in their papers, expanding efforts on the Web, and giving the under-30 crowd short, quick, lively reads.

Outgoing ASNE President Karla Garrett Harshaw encouraged editors to keep the fight for public information going, while incoming President Rick Rodriguez urged more investigative reporting to build circulation.

Editors were in agreement that changes must be made to respond to continued readership declines. “There is a bit of a sense of terror at the notion that a dramatic change is needed to get back to the numbers we had a few years ago,” Rex Smith, editor of the Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union said. “Numbers in revenue and readership.”

Stan Tiner, executive editor of The Sun-Herald in Biloxi, Miss., called it the 500-pound gorilla in the room. “It is time to be bold,” he told E&P. “Just having 24-hour-old news on the front page is not going to be enough.” Editor Tim Franklin of The Sun in Baltimore summed up the mood best, saying, “There is a great risk of inaction that has grown. It is no longer good enough to produce the status quo.”

Among the guest speakers, Rupert Murdoch asked editors to do more on the Web. Attorney Floyd Abrams called on them to boost efforts for a federal shield law.

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