Newsroom Editors Responsible for Newspaper Decline?

The New Haven Register Newspaper was called out by FOX NEWS & Bill O’Reilly over a very controversial editorial. That makes us wonder: can this hurt the publication?

It’s true. Newspaper editors and broadcast news directors have heavy influence on the financial success or failure of a local media operation. Especially today with local advertisers & readers/viewers having so much choice in what they follow and who they trust.

Love him or hate him, Bill O’Reilly can grab attention. The topic revolved around fallout from the Travon Martin / George Zimmerman trial. O’Reilly took offense to The New Haven Register’s editorial that wasn’t shy about their feelings on the verdict.

The New Haven Register editorial mentioned Fox News, Ted Nugent, Ann Coulter, and the so called right-wing fringe, and bundled them right along with the KKK. Watch Clip:

Is the editorial page and adjacent journalism of a local newspaper important? Absolutely. Is it vital to have a level of separation between editorial and advertising? Yes. Is it important to understand the delicate balance between editorial independence and good business practice? Yes again. In most cases, a Newspaper Publisher is ultimately responsible for achieving this balance.

Did this national attention by O’Reilly help or hurt The New Haven Register? Readers & advertisers will vote with their wallets on that one.

From a capitalist point of view, the editor; Matt Dirienzo, likely got flack from the sales department. A few local advertisers in the New Haven Register angry? Yup. Did they consider cancelling their ad campaigns because they’re more conservative in their views? Maybe. What if Register readers also like Fox and have Cat Scratch Fever on their iPhone? If so, a cancellation order might be on its way. We think The New Haven Register circulation manager was a little less pleasant after this as well.

At one time, local media companies could weather a storm like this. Maybe they’d lose a few subscribers and advertisers. Today, a high profile and editorially aggressive stance on any particular issue could encourage more local advertisers to re-allocate marketing dollars to a variety of effective, digital news & marketing platforms.

At the end of the day, the local advertiser only cares about one thing: growing their business. At one time, the newspaper was a mandatory local AD buy. Today, that’s no longer true.

With a fast growing number of advertisers migrating to web, the digital division of a Newspaper of Broadcast operation must be managed by a well-balanced, digital GM. This online general manager understands that advertising and content lives in some kind of harmony. This person has compensation tied to readership, revenue growth and profit margin.

If you’re a local news site managed by a salaried and editorial-only minded leader, you’ll eventually run into profitability problems. Especially if your newsroom endorses politically correct, yet generally unpopular views of local & national issues.

Run your digital division just like you’re your tradition operation….in this order of priority:

  1. Profit First
  2. Efficient Operations
  3. Compelling Editorial

2 thoughts on “Newsroom Editors Responsible for Newspaper Decline?”

  1. Brilliant, Mel. The formula for continuing to be relevant is to turn journalism and opinion into mush that no one could possibly disagree with? Good luck.

    And FYI, here’s a statement we sent to O’Reilly (and a followup based on some of the criticism) just after 5 p.m. yesterday. I think they’d already started taping the show by then, so it was probably too late for him to use.

  2. I appreciate your point Matt. I’m just trying to highlight financial challenge in most newsrooms when heavy editorial opinion potentially disturbs business operations. Not an easy challenge to fix. I believe local newspapers must develop better, and more independent rev-streams…so that newsrooms (you) can do.. what they do best. While we may not always agree on content / editorial, I do want to make sure news/editorial efforts are funded….No matter what the editorial position on a story. You must admit, you took a pretty extreme position in this editorial. Personally, I did not agree with the editorial. I especially cringed when I saw general connection between KKK and Fox, Coulter, Nugent. Hardcore.

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