Today started as a typical day. I had a Round Rock Chamber meeting where afterwards I was able to get more background on a major story our papers are doing for March. After getting back to the office, I was notified about the plane crash. Immediately we wondered what a monthly news organization should do. We have incredible talent. But we are a monthly! In many ways I believe this is what new media people think about even the daily papers…. when they say “your news is old! By the time the paper reaches the home, its old news! We need new media to replace the dead trees.”
Just the night before I got riled up about a post from Jeff Jarvis. He’s one of those guys that talks about how stupid newspapers and newspaper people are and how they are old and dying. In just one day, I had a better argument for the future of our business than any “theoretical,hypothetical, wishful thinking” idea he has blogged about.
The bottom line is that today proved that citizens need traditional media – including print.
It’s not the time to go into all of the reasons why I believe print needs to survive from a business standpoint. Our company has 95% of its revenues coming from our printed product. It’s well-received in the marketplace and I believe a fine product. It also has created 63 new journalism related jobs in less than 5 years. These are full-time jobs. Real salaries. Real benefits.
This 95% in-paper revenue supported what we did today. We weren’t unique in our coverage. I think the television people here in Austin did a fabulous job. But the newspaper people (including Austin’s daily) did our fair job of good reporting. We had the availability of 16 reporters and editors making sure we were not only there, but as we posted new information it was edited and (gasp!) verified.
Some of our company’s accomplishments today:
1. We were the first news organization that confirmed the plane came out of Georgetown – not Waco which was widely spread by bloggers.
2. We were the first news organization on the scene of the house fire in northwest Austin where the pilot allegedly set ablaze before the heading to Georgetown.
3. We had on the scene reporters taking amazing photos (like this one) and tweeting what they saw live.
4. We were the only news organization at the Georgetown airport watching, shooting photos, and tweeting as Williamson County officials cleared a suspicious package left in the car of the pilot.
5. CNN called us to get our reporter on Headline News (only to switch gears to go with a television affiliate – their loss) – we later partnered with a local radio station.
6. We were the first to report that perhaps some of the heroes first at the scene were firefighters actually training in a parking lot nearby.
We would have been able to none of these with just our online revenue. The daily newspaper wouldn’t be able to do it without their printed product’s revenues either. The television stations that did such a fine job could not have if they didn’t have the resources from their broadcast medium.
While the news was coming out, I noticed on my Tweetdeck this post from my friend Will Hampton:
RT @willhampton: Its amazing how we know more than folks on scene about the Why of what happened. In less than two hours! #ATXplanecrash
Folks may take this to mean that the web is all we need to cover these types of events. The truth is, most of the blogs on this subject this early were either wrong or were based on information coming from traditional media sources. For example, you couldn’t do a google search on the pilot’s last words without knowing the pilot’s name. Most people close to what happened today would agree that new media helped get the word out – but traditional journalists helped confirm and provided the resources and the “places” where citizens here and abroad could get the information they wanted.
It was a beautiful thing. Bloggers were helpless to help. They were busy retweeting traditional media’s work. It sure is hard to find someone to write a $20 article in a situation like this. Traditional media used new media the right way using the resources provided by traditional media.
One more thing, bloggers not only didn’t have the resources to help provide new information, they also didn’t have the teammates to help. Our reporters and editors worked together to do what we did.