On February 27, the day the Rocky Mountain News published its last edition and just a few days after owners of the Philadelphia Inquirer filed for bankruptcy, a panel convened at the Museum of San Diego History, perhaps a fitting setting to discuss the state of the newspaper.
Union-Tribune reporter Roger Showley was the moderator, bouncing questions off Dean Nelson, Point Loma Nazarene journalism professor; Diane Borden, director of SDSU’s School of Journalism and Media Studies; and Andrew Donohue, editor of Voice of San Diego.
The group discussed emerging journalistic models such as Voice of San Diego, a web-only non-profit; the roles of Facebook, craigslist, and citizen journalism; declines in print advertising; and why consumers are reluctant to pay for information.
The current business model “is falling apart,” Showley argued, asking panelists, “What does the public want?”
Donohue disputed the notion that it’s a choice “between a news world and a Facebook world.” Newspapers, he stressed, “have failed to recognize that they are information-delivery companies.”
Borden talked about credibility, which the “Wild West” web can’t promise: “Building trust -- that is the franchise.”
Nelson said newspapers will decline “until a critical mass of people” recognize that they are a resource worth paying for.
Amid all the bad news about newspapers, panelists expressed some hope.
“I’m very optimistic about the future of news,” Donohue said. “We just have to learn how to do journalism in a new world.”
Nelson reminded the room that the news is history in the best of ways: “Journalism has been with us since people have been drawing on caves.”