First Impressions From The ONA Forum

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The Online News Association’s conference on Friday at the Freedom Forum in Nashville was not only a wonderful resource regarding the future of where journalism is headed, but in many ways it was a blogger meetup.

Remember those words.

I can recall going to other journalism conferences where online endeavors were only discussed with a bit of disdain. There is nothing like seeing publishers and owners throw up a little bit in their mouths while discussing where their businesses are heading. It’s also disconcerting to see them talking about how the Internet is a trend and not thinking about that the industry has faced challenges before and survived them.

I’m going to write a few posts on the things that struck me, but the main thing that was so invigorating about the conference was seeing leaders in online journalism say the things that I’ve been thinking for a long time.

One item I will mention in this editorial, for lack of a better word, is that something that Patrick Beeson and Katie Allison Granju said in a track called “The Evolving Newsroom” brought up. I’m inclined to agree with their line of thinking regarding something Beeson said regarding protecting the “legacy” of the print product. He basically was saying that, I think, that we as an industry are so busy justifying the print product that we are not focusing on the future of news delivery.

We did on Friday which was like drinking cold water in the desert after a long, desperate journey. It was refreshing for folks like myself who are unheard evangelists in my little neck of the woods.

I live in a college town. I keep track of the people in my community on Facebook and MySpace that are affiliated with the college. The numbers are vastly larger that the subscriptions to the local papers. I would say, unscientifically of course, that the majority of subscribers to our local paper are about one/third of our newspaper subscriptions. The majority, and this is just off the top of my head. of our deadwood subscribers are older or elderly.

Our audience will eventually die out, I’m afraid. People don’t want to say it, but they will in hushed tones when they think no one is listening. However, those 13,000 users of MySpace and Facebook also want news. They are just finding it in different places that their grandparents did.

And that’s our challenge. That, my friends, is what this conference was about on many levels.

The challenges of remaining relevant and being leaders in our industry where an invisible tsunami is happening. We just need to clean up the debris and rebuild. It really is as simple as that.

The conference was a good one on a personal level because I’ve often thought about how we can protect the legacy of our product while embracing new formats of news delivery. It can be done.

The newspaper I work at was started in 1884. I do believe that smaller papers are going to weather the recent storm much better than larger affiliates.


Because we are the only game in town when it comes to local news and that’s our edge. We’ve survived wars, depressions, recessions and much more. The legacy has remained. The obstacle those people who disdain online news creates is not allowing the evolution of the news industry to take an organic route of revision.

The one thing that certain journalists are doing right now is realizing that they must brand themselves, which I will write about later, and embrace new tools available to them.

And also remember I mentioned blogger meet-up. I met people on Friday that I’ve “known” for years. I just physically met them the first time on Friday, including Ken Marrero, Michael Silence, Jack Lail and Granju. We already knew each other though through that crazy medium that many in the journalism world don’t want to talk about.

And that was our blogs.

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2 Tweetbacks & Trackbacks

  1. […] in after spending a glorious 24 hours in Nashville at the ONA which I’ve written about at Newstechzilla. Lots to think about from that day. I learned a great […]

  2. […] Ask Jack Lail, Katie Granju, Tom Humphrey, Erin Chapin or Michael Silence because I was with them a few years ago at the Freedom Forum at a seminar on digital media in Nashville.  […]


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