Newspapers have reflected the change in many ways including more celebrity coverage. When asked why they respond with "The readers want it."
The editors in Louisville devoted one of their sessions to the subject, "Celebrity Coverage -- Where's the Line... And Have We Crossed it?" But in addressing that topic much time was spent discussing how to use celebrity" coverage to attract readers. Lorrie Lynch, who covers celebrities for USA Weekend, urged the editors to capitalize upon celebrity" coverage to attract new readers. And the gossip columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune known simply as C.J., offered advice on how to cover celebrities if you don't have the good fortune to be in New York or Los Angeles (Cornog, 2005)."
Covering celebrities was only one suggestion to lure new readers. In addition, there were suggestions about reporting on things that interest young readers including investigative reporting, health and fitness news and other things that are germane to the life of the young adult population of America.
Clearly, a declining newspaper business must pay attention to its customers' wants if it is to survive. Good ideas about how to do this were in abundance at the APME convention. And none of the journalists were saying that hard news coverage should be abandoned in pursuit of profits. But profits may be hard to come by if the public does not want to read the hard news (Cornog, 2005)."
The newspaper industry is unique in that readers are rarely concerned with the business end of things. All they want is to read a good and solid story, without being concerned with the business of keeping the presses rolling. Those who work in the industry however are concerned as they try and boost readership to overcome falling circulation numbers (Woolfolk, 2005).
Strong advertising sales overcame falling circulation to boost Knight Ridder's net income 8.2% to $107.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2004, the company said in January 2005(Woolfolk, 2005)."
Another ethically questionable attempt to boost readership has been to inflate circulation numbers. The Tribune admitted earlier this year that the numbers previously reported had been inflated.
Spokespeople for the company "told analysts at a media conference in New York that the company had settled with more than 20,000 advertisers, including more than 75% of the newspaper's top 350 advertisers. He said that all of the newspaper's top 10 accounts had agreed to settlements based on either cash payment or future advertising space.
Tribune has set aside $90 million to settle claims with advertisers for the overstatements at Newsday as well as a circulation scandal at the New York edition of the Spanish-language daily Hoy (Lazaroff, 2005)."
Sensationalism, inflated statistics and other things have worked against the industry at a time when its credibility was more important than ever.
There are several things newspapers can do to boost their readership numbers. One of the most important things will be to target the 19- to 34-year-old population. Research shows this age bracket is interested in investigative stories, health and fitness news and celebrity information. Providing stories in these areas will help attract young readers. It is also important to continue to provide coverage of stories for older readers as well, so that as the young readers age they continue to turn to the newspaper for their news.
When it comes to celebrity coverage, it is important to maintain strong ethical standards while providing information that will be of interest to the readers. This can be done if the entire industry works to maintain such ethics and refuses to sink to lower level.
Investigative reporting can attract many readers and can do a lot to improve the nation as long as it does not cross the line into speculation or sensationalism.
If the newspaper industry as a whole adopts a high ethical standard, that allows for young readers to be targeted, while at the same time refusing to become sensationalistic, readership can be increased and maintained as those young people age and continue to read newspapers.
Following the technological boom of the past few decades, newspapers have been watching their numbers fall steadily. Readership reduction has been a serious business concern across the nation at newspaper offices.
Providing what the readers want by way of sensationalism has been attempted, and has called the credibility of the newspaper industry into question. As the industry races to correct the problem several things become evident.
Newspaper readership has declined. It has a tremendous amount of competition to overcome. Maintaining strong ethics, targeting the young adult and providing more investigative, celebrity and health and fitness news are all ways that readership can be increased and maintained. Ethics in journalism have always been strong. It has caused journalists to go to jail rather than reveal their sources, it has caused readers to turn away from sources found to be unreliable and it can make or break the industry. It will be important during the next few years to maintain the highest ethical standards while working to lure readership numbers back.
Consoli, John. Newspapers Show Some Spunk
Editor & Publisher; 5/3/1997;
Cornog, Evan. Let's blame the readers: is it possible to do great journalism if the public does not care? Columbia Journalism Review; January 1, 2005; Cornog, Evan
____. EDITORIAL: What happened to the news?
University Wire; 4/11/2005; Staff Editorial
Lazaroff, Leon. After painful year, newspaper companies reassure…