My Two Cents

The media world is changing, no question about it, and the players don’t seem to know how to deal with it, possibly due to a lack of resourcefulness generated by many years of riches, stability and comfort. In regard to this lack of resourcefulness, I have many questions, but also some suggested answers. As an example, I’ve noticed that the style and approach to the news in The Los Angeles Times would be more appropriate in New York City than The New York Times is these days. The latter has lost touch with its readers. Is it possible that the news style of NYC’s venerable daily could now be more successful in Los Angeles than in New York?
I also question the wisdom of U.S.-Anglo TV stations that have surrendered their largest audiences to the Spanish-language networks when it comes to football games. And by football, I mean the real football, not the American “football,” which to the majority of the world is just a “game” (not really a “sport”).

Editorially speaking, this publication will no longer refer to football with the derogatory moniker of “soccer,” and what in the U.S. media is wrongly called “football,” we’ll refer to as “American football.”
Yes, the media world is changing. Unfortunately the media elite is not. These people are persistent in broadcasting the same old stuff that the public no longer wants on a mass scale. Open a newspaper, and one can easily make a long list of things that are wrong with it. I see them, many of you see them, why the heck don’t the papers’ managers see them too?

Turn the TV on and look at how sports are relegated to games that viewers no longer appreciate. Try watching the news on television and you’ll immediately get the urge to log on to the Internet. I can no longer watch CNN, and it seems I’m not alone. For broader, more intelligent coverage, one has to turn to Deutsche Welle, France 24, China’s CCTV International, or even BBC World (but only when the latter mercifully takes a rest from its incessant and obnoxious reports on African news that is almost always a replica of some other old story).

If media executives would concentrate on doing what they do best instead of worrying about economy of scale, integration, value-added reach and all the other Wall Street jargon –– good results would not be far off.
If these media people were focused on Main Street instead of Wall Street, they would notice the changing public and create ways to satisfy its evolving needs. In the U.S., English is still the cement of society, but that society, at its core, is multiethnic and more multilingual than ever. The media elite seems totally oblivious to this.

To them, Peoria still rules. “Long live Peoria,” is probably their motto. But, if the media elite continues on its current path, it’s sure to perish (as they’ve been saying for the past few years like a broken record).
Ask why they persist on the same losing path and they will recite one thousand and one excuses as to why it’s not good to be innovative. The status quo, with some tinkering, is what they’re comfortable with.

Following this tirade, let’s move on to my calls to action:
U.S. newspapers. Open your pages to a more diverse group of commentators. The usual suspects are getting stale. Let opposing political views be encouraged. Don’t cut editorial content. That strategy did not work for the Tribune Company.

Take into consideration that comments from Main Street are more valuable than those from academia and Wall Street. Stop thinking that you’re above the average Joe.
Start covering sporting events that also interest Europeans, Hispanics and Asians. Your current sports section doesn’t attract readers or advertisers.

Be vigilant, skeptical and resourceful. Your demise started with your untruthful and trembling coverage of the Iraqi war. Go back to the old adage that “news is whatever someone wants to suppress. Everything else is advertising.”

For TV stations. Offer real news, not hype. Weekends don’t have to always be “partially cloudy,” when you well know it’s going to pour. Rush in covering football. All youngsters play it at school, in the parks and in their backyards. Once in a while, bring your cameras to those backyards.
Make sure audiences look up to you, not down. Giving a good example is always appreciated. Realize that shouts, screams and curses are surefire ingredients in driving TV audiences to the Internet. Plus, broadcasters have to stop their practice of making sure children don’t grow up with traditional television by eliminating kids shows.

Understand that the Midwest is no longer your point of reference. Take advantage of those “dot” channels, fast, before the FCC takes back your spectrum.
The television media elite likes to talk about the value of globalization, but in their business they still practice localization. The notion of “think globally, act locally” would work, but only if the locals weren’t coming from such diverse backgrounds.

Right now the raging debate is whether content should be free or not. It’s once again the wrong argument. First worry about restoring readership and viewership, and after –– only after –– figure out how to provide extra services (which should only be referred to as “conveniences”) at a fee. As GE CEO Jeff Immelt said, “We’re at the end of a difficult generation of business leadership. Tough-mindedness was replaced by meaneness and greed.” And, as Huffington Post’s Ariana Huffington commented, “It’s time for traditional media companies to stop whining.”

Dom Serafini