The State of the News Media: Challenges and Strategies

On Wednesday evening, I attended a meeting of the San Francisco Bay Region Chapter of SLA to hear Ward Bushee, Executive Vice President and Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle,  speak about the state of the news media.  He spoke frankly about how the last several years have been tumultuous as advertisers have been diversifying their buys and, in response to the economic situation, cutting back.  This in turn has put the media on the ropes financially. (He said that about 70% of income for newspapers used to come from classified advertising, much of it now lost to Craigslist.) In addition, the advent of many new sources of news and information has reduced the market share of most traditional news outlets.  SFgate.com, the web presence for the San Francisco Chronicle, has many more readers than the print edition. Bushee then outlined the challenges and strategies to survive and prosper in this difficult environment.

One of his challenges is to “understand that transition and what it means to gathering news, processing news and presenting it to readers in print, online or other” formats, he said. “We’ve got to train ourselves to emerge through this transition. People can retain their strong skills in journalism but learn new skills to adapt to the new world out there.”

After his presentation (sans notes or slides),  he opened the floor for questions and answered them without skirting any issues. It was obvious that most of the attendees were faithful subscribers to the print version of the Chronicle.

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