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Editor's column: Like it or not media change on the way

Published December 30, 2012 4:16 pm

The Internet's greatest strength is also the source of struggle.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Hang on to your hat. We're headed for 2013.

What will the new year bring? Sounds clichéd, but in the business of journalism the only certainty is uncertainty — and change.

Technology is changing the way we communicate so rapidly that society can barely keep up.

Innovation is the watchword for the future. Nothing will stop it. Remember your grandmother saying, "You can't stop progress"? That may have always been the case, but it is probably truer now than anytime since the invention of the printing press.

The digital revolution has set into motion changes that turn the media industry upside down and inside out. Multimedia global communication can be almost instantaneous and anybody can report news. Anyone can publish.

That has to be good in the long run — the democratization of publishing. Everyone has a voice. Potentially, at least, everyone can be heard.

Therein also lies the conflict — the great strength and great weakness of the Internet and the World Wide Web. And therein lies both the challenge and opportunity for news organizations like The Salt Lake Tribune.

Unlike publishing of the past, there is no gatekeeper editor or any standard enforcer. Anyone can say anything on the Web. And they do. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, "The sand is always shifting online, there is no firm footing. And it is fickle — here today, gone tomorrow — you never really know who is saying what on the Web."

A bit of an exaggeration — but not much.

Newspapers like ours — the legacy news reporters — are competing online. The advantage we have in attracting readers is our reputation. We are familiar to readers; we still have editors, and we still stand for accurate reporting, fairness, balance and the pursuit of objectivity.

Aggregators and other news agencies use The Tribune as a source for their news reporting because we continue to be the news organization of record in the state of Utah. We now have as many readers online as in print, and our audience is continuously growing. For big stories, readership swells. It is not uncommon for us to hit more than a million page views for a single day and sometimes for a single story.

We have changed our production models to digital first, print second. Virtually everything we produce goes to the Web before it goes to print.

Very importantly now, more and more Web users and news consumers are using computer tablets and smartphones to get their news. So in response we must fashion our news presentation to fit that need — spelling change from some long-form stories to more short-form stories, linking to other facts and figures along with presenting news summaries, data lists and bullet points.

Behavior patterns are changing and so must our understanding, our news writing and our news presentation. As mobile news users and social media grow, we must learn to use those means to reach people if we are to stay vital.

We have to respect change and embrace it. It is going to happen whether we want it to or not. It won't stop for us.

Change brings change, which brings other changes and so on it goes. There will be more sifting and shifting — not less — more new ways of doing things in the media. Reminds me of that old carnival wheel calling — "Round and round she goes and where she stops nobody knows."

Wherever she stops, we'll see you there. And we'll be along for the next spin. Happy New Year.

Nancy Conway is the editor of The Salt Lake Tribune. Reach her at nconway@sltrib.com.






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