The secret to keeping newspaper’s alive in today’s world

My phone Buzzes, I got another notification. I slyly try to check my Facebook to see a news article that was posted on my wall and also see that there is a trending story on my Huffpost app, so I sneak a look at that. My attention is then drawn back to the conversation in the modern and sleek looking Detroit Free Press news meeting room as I hear an old tired voice of a veteran Free Press writer addressing a students question. Half the room is a mixture of seasoned and new news writers, all still very experienced at what they do and the other half is full of students, eager to learn what keeps the Freep afloat amidst the rising presence of social media and the internet. The conversation at this point is about distinguishing The Detroit Free Press from other news outlets such as the Ann Arbor News; they say they focus on quality rather than quantity which is what a lot of news outlets do now-a-days. One of the most important ways of making something a “quality” article is one that establishes as one writer from the Freep put it is “Trust. You cannot lose sight of what’s important and that is keeping trust with your readers.”

In a world where news is almost instantaneous and attention spans are dwindling, the demand of a news writer becomes even harder. Leaning back in my fancy chair that still has the price tag on it in the brightly lit news room, one younger spry writer not only describes that writers have to write interesting and factual articles but then tweet and take video and take pictures and that “the demand of a news writer is now greater than it has ever been.” It’s hard to believe all the work that writers have to do now-a-days and the wear and tear can be seen on some of the faces of the writers. But looking around at their new building with multiple computer monitors per employee, multiple fridges, experienced veterans mingling with those that still look a little lost, there is an almost tangible energy in the news room that day. The sound of frantic typing on keyboards, the rapid shuffle of feet and even the actually pleasant smell of the bathrooms that causes my classmate John Yates to explain, “that’s how they keep their news so fresh,” makes it apparent that while they are not doing as well as in the past, the Detroit Free Press is rapidly adapting to this modern world.

One would think after hearing all that is required of journalist today that every news place would be moving towards a quantity over quality approach just to keep up, but that as mentioned earlier that is not the case with the Free Press. Despite having deadlines ad a full day, the writers went over on their morning meeting to continue to talk with us students, to find out what makes us want to pick up a newspaper (or more likely, click a link) and what they can do better. The tone of the room isn’t one of desperation but rather surprisingly, relaxed and full of eagerness. The writers at the Free Press were genuinely interested in hearing what we had to say despite having a full day a head of them. They genuinely wanted to create a dialog and try to figure out what they can do better. By the end of the still too short meeting, I finally got why that one writer said that trust was so important. These writers don’t write to just get paid, they write because they still want to make a difference. While going down their elevator with shockingly sensitive buttons and into their lobby with marble that almost seemed to glow, I left feeling that I knew this paper on a personal level now and a lot of that is because I trust them more. I trust the writers to avoid getting caught up in the rapid consumerism news world and still write articles that readers need to read and for the readers to be able to believe what is written.


About njansen16

My name is Nicholas Jansen and I'm entering my fourth and last year at the University of Michigan. My major is Program in the Environment (PitE) with a specialization in water.

One Response to “The secret to keeping newspaper’s alive in today’s world”

  1. I’m glad that you feel like you made a connection with the journalists at the Detroit Free Press, Nicholas. I think that your generation of active, engaged citizens is going to wrestle with this problem: how do we keep the American tradition of a vigorous, independent, free press — given that the advertising model supporting that part of our culture has collapsed? It’s a huge positive that now all of us can be “citizen journalists” and contribute to the news flow from time to time. But collectively we can’t really replace all of the skills and experience of professional journalists.

    I mentioned at the news meeting Friday that the last person to win a Putlizer for the Detroit Free Press was a former college intern. His name is Stephen Henderson, and he’s a former Michigan Daily editor. After he won journalism’s top prize in 2014, Stephen was interviewed by Columbia Journalism Review. He said, “What wakes me up in the middle of the night is the stuff we couldn’t get to, that we didn’t have the people or resources to really uncover. I’m not holding my breath for a solution to that. This is a big, big-picture problem, with lots of people really working full time to solve it. But that’s my greatest hope: more people, more watchdogging.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s