I’m not the only ink-stained traditionalist concerned about the N&O’s new direction. Former newsman Gary Pearce says his piece over on his blog, Talking About Politics.
In these Trumped-up times, we need good journalism more than ever. Which is why readers of The News & Observer paid careful attention to the recent column by Executive Editor John Drescher on changes there. What he wrote told us three things:
• How much journalism and The N&O are changing,
• How much readers are concerned about the changes, and
• How much editors are concerned about readers’ reactions to the changes.
Readers are concerned that the old wall of separation between news and ads is being replaced by a chart measuring how many clicks stories get and, thereby, how many ads get sold.
Drescher’s column, “On the new N&O menu: Less spinach, more reader-focused coverage,” reassured us that the changes will be positive:
“Starting this week, we’ll be working harder to answer your questions and present the news in a way that is more relevant, with more video and more focus on topics that we know you care about.
“When most of our readership was of the print paper, we never knew with precision how much each story was read. Now we know how much digital readership each story has, and we’ve used that as a guide for which stories we will cover.
“While measuring readership is important to us, it’s not the only factor we’ll consider when deciding what to cover.”
Drescher vowed that the pursuit of digital clicks won’t imperil quality.
“Our core values remain the same. We’ll continue to provide the kind of watchdog reporting that has distinguished The N&O. Check out ‘Jailed to Death,’ our new report on deaths in county jails….We want to give you the news and information that means the most to you in the form and at the times you want it.”
He chided “ink-stained traditionalists” who “worry that we’ll publish nothing but click-bait stories about cats. They (the traditionalists, not the cats) underestimate the intelligence of the readers in this region.”
Well, call me an ink-stained traditionalist. I do worry. Not so much for now, because I know the editors at The N&O today. They are serious, committed journalists.
But they’re under a lot of pressure from business people, bean-counters and click-counters who live on the West Coast. While I trust John Drescher and his colleagues, I don’t know who or what will come after him and them.
Also last week, superstar investigative reporter Joseph Neff turned in his typewriter at the N&O. He’ll be joining the Marshall Project:
— Joseph Neff (@josephcneff) August 23, 2017