San Francisco needs a first class daily newspaper. One with the stature and reputation of the New York Times and The Los Angles Times but with a Bay Area slant. Most who live in the Bay Area acknowledge that the San Francisco Chronicle and The Examiner do not enjoy this reputation.
What is possible? There was talk that the Chronicle and Examiner might merge. This could help. Combining the staffs of both papers could certainly give a combined paper more journalistic horsepower - provided that the combined paper did not just cut back on staff.
But a great paper requires more than just staff, it requires both a vision for what is possible and the will to back it. Here are some suggestions for how a great paper might evolve in the region.
Daily Print Paper
Print is not in any danger of dying any time soon. Just look at the bookstores in the region. It's easier to read than a computer screen and far more convenient to read on the way to work. It also has proven ad sales potential. One of the problem with the existing daily papers is they cater to the 50+ crowd. Perhaps this has to do with the editorial control.
- At least 3 daily editions with breaking stories
- Separate "metro" sections for:
- San Francisco City
- North Bay (Marin and Sonoma county)
- South Bay
- East Bay
- Expanded Business and cyberspace coverage
- Improved coverage of local issues (with web based support)
- Emphasis on excellence of Asia and World coverage (let the NY Times and Washington Post
keep being the voice of the Eastern Establishment)
- Add some great new columnists who are willing to shake things up. Writers like Hunter Thompson. Serialize new fiction. Cater to those who read.
- Exploit synergy with Cyberspace and TV/radio - both in ad sales and in complementary nature of content.
- Give a strong voice to Bay Area culture and business community.
- Put together a task force to study issues/readership and make recommendations.
- Return to the populist newspaper traditions
"To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable"
This medium should be used for what it is good for - resources, archives and interactive discussion. See
Net Gain by J.D. Lasica
for a good discussion of the relative strengths and weaknesses of print and cyberspace.
The virtual newsroom is a start at defining a "local newspaper" in cyberspace.
- Archive and allow search of all articles in print editions (with back links to previous related articles and Internet resources)
- Allow interactive discussion by topic. See
The New York Times
forums for a good example of this.
- Be a resource for issues facing the community.
- Provide local version of Current Events at Yahoo!
- Adopt a cooperative attitude toward other online resources in the community.
NY Times does this well also.
TV and Radio.
A major area for synergy with print and Internet. Differentiate the product from traditional TV type news stories by having more discussion with and between reporters, newsmakers, community leaders, activists and others in the community. Less emphasis on covering sensationalism and "blood and guts" stories.
- Discussions between reporters and newsmakers about current news stories.
- Use reporters interchangeably between print, online and TV/radio.
- Broadcast public forum on issues of the day. (1 minute limit?)
- Host discussions between people who are helping to build community
Today there are many news sources to chose from. The Internet opens up the possibility to get news content from just about anywhere in the world.
But Kbytes alone do not make journalism. Good journalism requires skillful human beings to condense from many sources and present stories in a way that people find useful and interesting. The outlets are many - but the core is still talented professionals.
Newspapers still hold the advantage of connivance and established ad sales appeal. The Bay Area newspaper market is becoming crowded with offerings from the New York Times, Mercury News, Wall Street Journal, and many others.
By doing nothing, the Chronicle and Examiner run the risk of further erosions of their readership and ad base.
By keeping to a 50+ age editorial viewpoint they alienate younger audiences.
A greater divergence of viewpoints would help credibility and provide material interesting to a wider range of audiences.
What do you think?
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San Francisco Media and
The San Francisco Times