We don't think our readers are thieves
Mar 30, 2010 | 2785 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This past weekend the entire staff of the Queens Ledger/Brooklyn Star family of newspapers took a road trip to Saratoga Springs for the annual New York Press Association Convention. (Sorry if you tried to call Friday afternoon and couldn’t get a live voice!) It’s pretty much like any industry convention - seminars and workshops with titles like “Enterprise Reporting,” “Legal Pitfalls for Newspaper Websites,” and “Leadership Success: Speed-Read People to Empower and Motivate.”

The weekend is also a chance to meet our colleagues at community newspapers from around the state and talk shop. We discuss the business, everything from reporting to reaching our target audiences to the ten-pound gorilla in the room: finances. And in those discussions we learned to our dismay that we have been doing everything wrong for the past year.

This year’s convention (as was last year’s, for that matter) was dominated by chatter about how we can keep you, our readers, from “stealing” the news. That’s right, stealing the news.

It seems the rise of the internet is the final nail in the coffin, and unless we can figure out some way to keep you from unethically reading our articles and opinions online, instead of spending two bits down at your corner store or local newsstand, newspapers as we know it will be unable to survive.

We didn’t get the memo.

Instead, we’ve spent the last year - even longer - trying to make our website as comprehensive and interactive as possible. We invite you to go to our websites (each of our eight papers and quarterly magazine has its own site) and read whatever you want. Take our polls and leave comments. (Believe it or not, many newspapers around the state, we discovered, are actively trying to figure out a way to limit readers’ comments on their websites – or rather approve [censor] them before they can be read by anyone else in the free world.)

That may be enough for you, but if you want to take it further, create a user account and start a blog or upload photos and video or send us a story idea. Place a classified, or if there is an event on your block, your child’s school, or your church, put it in our event calendar and let all of our readers know about it.

We don’t see ourselves in the business of selling you information, but rather gathering information from as many resources as possible and putting it all in one place. We can’t do that if we try to micro-manage how information is consumed and disseminated. Frankly, we don’t care if you ever buy the Leader/Observer down in Woodhaven or the Brooklyn Downtown Star in Prospect Heights, we still want to hear from you – because local, neighborhood news is our passion.

And check our website often, we are constantly updating it daily, when big news happens - we aren’t “holding” stories because we are afraid you won’t buy our papers. And if you are really connected, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and in the very near future sign up to receive text messages about breaking news and events happening right where you live.

We find it odd that these community newspapers (including several right here in Queens and Brooklyn) that give their papers away for free are now trying to figure out a way to charge you for reading the same content online, many times without offering you anything more than what you can read in the paper.

We’re embracing new technology and using it to make us more relevant to you, go see for yourself. It won’t cost you a dime, not now, not ever.

Congratulations to News Editor Dan Bush who won a New York Press award for his in-depth reporting on the Gowanus Canal.
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