Surprise news hits an industry no longer with a voice of its own
It is on days like yesterday, with the news of Jill Abramson’s removal as executive editor of the NYT, that one pines for the old days of the trade media business. Two decades ago there were no Internet sites to discuss industry news, no Twitter or LinkedIn, but there was a NYC-based Editor and Publisher. There was also, from time to time, other newspaper trade publications that would spring up whenever a publisher believed that ol’ E&P wasn’t doing a very good job of covering the business of newspapering.
Social media can provide instant distribution of what is already known, what it can not do is report – and since Nielsen chose to shutter its newspaper B2B title in late 2009, the industry has been pretty much on its own. The news that Nielsen would shutter E&P was actually one of the first posts ever produced on TNM, appearing a little less than a month before the site officially launched.
E&P had gone through some tough times but seemed revitalized by its editorial team, which included Greg Mitchell as editor, and also Joe Strupp, who works for MediaMatters today. I felt that E&P had turned a corner as far as its content was concerned, finally taking a hard look at the industry and its compliance with the Bush administration during the run up to the Iraq War.
But I’m sure many in the industry didn’t appreciate the new E&P, which was far more newsworthy and analytical than the old one – which, frankly, was seen like many B2B magazines as simply an outlet for vendors to sell their wares.
Today’s E&P is what remains after Nielson closed the title and a California boating publisher picked it up, minus most of the staff and moved its center of operations to Irvine. At the time paidcontent.org (link to where news story now resides) wrote that moving the title out west is “a reminder — or should be — that the newspaper industry stretches a lot farther than the major dailies that get so much attention.”
But it is also a reminder that one can not just move a publication away center of gravity, where most of the news occurs, and transplant it 2,800 miles away and expect the publication to stay relevant. Today’s E&P website has no story of its own on the events at The New York Times, but instead aggregated the story from the NYT itself.
Some might argue that the web, and social media, can serve as a watch dog and reporter on all things involving an industry. But I think this is still not true. Just as there is still a need for an executive editor to manage a newsroom, there is a need for editorial expertise to curate the information available for a trade publication, and also initiate new reporting. No one is going to call ten contacts and tweet about them – at least not yet. But this is standard operating procedure for any news organization. There may not be a need for a regularly appearing print publication – though that is still nice – but there is a need for a regularly appearing news organization, whether online, in tablet form, or mobile.
Note: Before I get blasted for the headline, it is important to point out that I am speaking strictly in terms of a widely read trade publication in the US, not the many journalists who regularly write about the newspaper industry. There is a difference. Keith Kelly and David Carr and Alan Mutter may regularly write about the industry but they are hardly “our trade industry publication” the way Engineering News-Record or AdAgeM or Architect.