Saturday, September 22, 2007

McClatchy's Howard Weaver on home turf

This Alaska panel on media gave me a flashback to Stanford in May, when McClatchy's Gary Pruit joined NYTimes Bill Keller and Harry Chandler, a former owner of the LA Times, and a young woman VP from Google, on a stage to discuss how the newspaper business was going to survive.

This time, McClatchy's Weaver, who was in the Stanford audience with other McClatchy-ites, was solo in his hometown of Anchorage, talking about the situation in which newspapers find themselves. He was joined by a local TV anchor, a radio producer, and a young woman who works in marketing for Clear Channel radio. Much like the woman from Google in May, other panelists looked at Clear Channel's Corinna Delgado as a spokesperson for anyone classified as young.

Weaver, known for inspiring news staffs, inspired his audience to consider the opportunity presented by the "phase transition" (think liquid boiling into steam) that the news business is undergoing. He talked about the opportunity, the scary but amazing opportunity, this era presents to news editors who make the right choices and help readers by sorting, routing, personalizing and adding value to information. He labeled the new morning newspaper as a "printed summary and orientation to the day" for the already news-saturated reader.

He encourages media participants not to buy into conventional wisdom that print is dead. Though a declining audience, it is still the largest. Half of all adults read a newspaper yesterday, he says. But he's also platform agnostic, subscribing to a point Delgado made -- deliver news when and how the consumer wants it.

One question the panel tackled briefly was young news consumers. Delgado confessed she's worried about the narrow information habits of young readers -- if it isn't pop culture, they don't care. This morning, I saw an announcement that may or may not counter her view. MTV is re-launching thinkMTV. They describe it on their site this way:
Think MTV has undergone a makeover. We have built a brand new community site where you can get informed, get heard and take action on the issues that matter to you most.

Register, and then you can sign up for news updates like these:
MTV News Daily Update
Never Miss A Top Story. Get the Latest Headlines Each Day, Plus Breaking News As Warranted.
think MTV
Stay in touch with the issues that concern you with this bi-weekly newsletter from think MTV. We'll update you on Sexual Health, Discrimination, Education, Environment, and Global issues around you.

All this brought up my own newspaper's staff of teen writers on Perfect World. As the digital natives, they may serve to guide us on news appetites in terms of content and delivery. The idea that young people don't care about news doesn't seem right. MTV seems to have an inkling. Social networking, a new way to make community, may be the ticket in.

MTV is soliciting teens as reporters for the 2008 presidential campaign. Now that's a heck of an opportunity for a kid to get involved.

And the Knight Foundation wants to deliver up to half a million dollars to anyone who can "figure out how to push journalism into the digital age."

Here's their pitch to kid innovators:
Believe it or not, people used to read newspapers! But now of course, we're all online and on mobile, logged onto our individual gadgets and disconnected from our community. So how can we use new technology to transmit news and actually bring people together? We've got some ideas, but we bet you've got some amazing ideas!