Archived Story

Media doesn’t make headlines

Published 12:57am Sunday, February 3, 2013

People essentially make their own headlines, while newspapers and other media simply communicate them to the public.

We certainly live in a media- and information-saturated world where news travels very quickly. With 24-hour cable news channels, constantly updated Internet sites and the explosion of social media, information spreads quicker than ever before — for better and worse.

As someone with more than a decade and a half of experience in the newspaper industry and more than three decades of voracious media consumption, I take it a little personal when people criticize the media as a whole for sensationalizing stories and solely focusing on bad news.

Although this may be true to an extent on a national level and on the entertainment news television channels, it couldn’t be farther from the truth locally.

At The Tribune, we would much rather focus on the “good news.”

But, ultimately, we don’t report “good news” or “bad news.” We just report THE news.

It is sometimes “negative because bad things happen in our world and people want to — and often need to — know about them.

History has shown that newspapers and television networks that focus solely on “good news” while ignoring the breaking news component, which often includes the “negative” stories, quickly fall out of favor with readers and viewers.

Many times people who object to a particular story will say, “You guys are just trying to sell newspapers.”

The Tribune, like virtually every other newspaper in the world, is motivated by serving its readers and community, but the concept of selling newspapers has never been part of our editorial decision-making process.

The idea that headlines drive newspaper sales comes out of the early 20th Century when, in many of the urban centers, there were multiple newspapers that used street hawkers to compete for the readers’ coins.

In the business model for most modern newspapers, more than 90 percent of the readers are either subscribers who already pay for the paper in advance without any idea what the stories will include or those who read the online editions for free. Even online advertising tied to pageviews is a minimal motivator.

The single copy sales that come from newspaper racks and dealers is a fraction of the total revenue for The Tribune and that is the same for virtually every other newspaper in the country.

I have often joked that I could run a headline that said “ALIENS LAND ON COURTHOUSE LAWN” every day for a week and the extra sales wouldn’t even generate enough money to pay the electric bill for that same week.

Our goal is simply to serve our community and the readers as best we can. If we do that, the financial component will work itself out.

A community newspaper like The Tribune simply lives up to its name and serves as a mirror of sorts, reflecting both the positive and the negative aspects of our home.


Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCaldwell_IT.

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