Monday, October 24, 2011

Newspaper Fade Might Be More Than You Thought

Sitting in a meeting of university professors and administrators, I asked the question: how many of you take the local newspaper? The answer was shocking.

Let me set the scene.  One of the initiatives I've set up at Northwestern State to promote sharing of information and getting more people involved in the content creation process is a group I called "Campus Communicators." Hardly an original idea - many colleges and universities, large and small, use similar boards to get story ideas or more hands to help write stories.

Natchitoches is a smaller town, still with its own local paper.  Due to the location - almost equal distance down I-49 from Shreveport and Alexandria - there isn't a local television news outlet. While there are two local radio stations, there isn't a lot of locally generated news available.

At this second organizational meeting of the Campus Communicators this week, the question was posed to me: how do you intend to get more news out about the school. My answer was we need to use more of our own resources - website and social media - to get the news out, mostly because of shrinking news hole and media staff.

What comes next is the surprise.

Keep in mind the demographics of the room.  The youngest person was, by my guess, early 30s for the new faculty.  The median age was probably around my own 48.

Out of curiosity I ask, how many take the local newspaper.

Sheepishly, two people half raise their hands.

Really?  Not to beat a dead horse, but the image of the room would be of a bunch of newspaper readers.

OK, I think, I missed the target. How many take the Shreveport Times, one of the two larger daily papers that would be regional.  Surely that was the case.

Same answer: two.  Two different people, mind you.

Out of the room of 17 university administrators or professors, four still take a daily newspaper.

So where do you get your news?

Facebook.  Websites.  On-line.

Granted, I didn't follow up with "what are your on-line sources" which usually are newspapers, but the clear indication was none of the people really follow the local newspaper media.

Yes, it is anecdotal.  Yes, it is unscientific.

But it was eye opening that increasingly groups that we have ignored in the past as targets for social and digital media are leaving the traditional media, especially print, faster than we might believe.

Once again, resistance is futile.

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