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Newspapers … back to the future?

Bernard Kilgore, WSJ Managing Editor (1941-1967)

Bernard Kilgore, WSJ Managing Editor (1941-1967)

Today’s Wall Street Journal (4.13.09) brings an insightful column by L. Gordon Crovitz titled, “Making Old Media New Again.”

For professional communicators interested in the future of newspapers, Crovitz provides an interesting look back through the eyes of former Journal manging editor Barney Kilgore.

Apparently, Kilgore wrote a 5-page memo in 1958 for the owners of the New York Herald Tribune suggesting that the Tribune was, “too much a newspaper that might be published in Philadelphia, Washington or Chicago.”

Kilgore suggested 51 years ago what many are suggesting now … the “compact model newspaper.”

He wrote, “Readers value their time, so the newspaper should have just one section, with larger editions on Sunday when people had more time to read.”

Many of us have speculated that “city” newspapers (as opposed to those with national circulation) may be headed in just this direction … smaller during the week (if at all) and larger with more analytical content on weekends, especially Sunday.

There’s plenty more in the column.  Definitely worth reading.  Regardless, I thought it was interesting for those of us bearing active witness to a business in transition.

Those interested in this topic might like the blog, Newmediacy.  It is authored by a friend in Cincinnati who is a former journalist and now a communicaitons professional.  He offers thoughtful posts from his unique vantage point.

Post by Nick Vehr – 4.13.09

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One Comment

  1. Posted April 13, 2009 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I joined the staff just two years after Barney Kilgore’s death. He was the dominant voice within the Wall Street Journal for years; successive editors followed his journalistic model carefully, which I think led to its phenomenal growth.

    The bottom line for Kilgore (and how the WSJ achieved its fame) was placing news in context. That is, it was not sufficient to just report the news. Instead, Journal reporters were trained to look for trends within news events, and write about what would likely happen. As an example, I wrote a story about a struggling golf pro that appeared on Page 1 of the Journal. But the story was not just about the golfer, but also about how the economics of professional golf were changing from individual to corporate sponsorship.

    Readers then — and now — are willing to pay for content that is professionally developed, reported and edited. How much they will pay seems to be the crux of the issue confronting journalism today; the answer may reside in looking at ways to foster and maintain editorial quality, which was Barney Kilgore’s lasting legacy.

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