What Does a Newspaper Stand For?

DIGIBABBLE is being taken to a new high…

The Newspaper Association of America, the trade group that has represented the interests of major newspaper publishers in one form or another since 1887, is going to drop from its name the very word that defined it: “Newspaper.”

The group will be known as the News Media Alliance.

Check out the story here: “Yes, the News Can Survive the Newspaper.”

Wait…the article goes on…

The group’s chief executive, David Chavern, said that the word “newspaper” has become meaningless in reference to many of the group’s members, including The Washington Post, The New York Times and Dow Jones. They may have newspapers, but they get large percentages of their readers online. Actually, you can’t even refer exclusively to “readers” these days when so many millions are “viewers” of online news video.

Then there are all those digital news organizations that until now could not join the association because they did not have print editions — like BuzzFeed or the Independent Journal Review. (Independent Journal Review is among the first members that does not publish a newspaper.)

Glad he didn’t mention Gawker….

And, Mr. Chavern brought it all home as he said: “‘Newspaper’ is not a big enough word to describe the industry anymore. The future of this industry is much broader.”

Much broader?

Than what?

I thought it might be instructive to see how real visionaries handle potential anachronism…do they capitulate to the forces of DIGIBABBLE? Or do they reach backward and look forward, imbuing their innovations with new technologies and applications while grounding themselves in the DNA that is the essence of their being?

Some cases in point:

Apple is my North Star…phones, watches, radio, pads…anyone remember Zune?

What about words that were created with a particular meaning but transcended any specific product or service to become the universal language — they evolve as tech changes but stay true to their DNA:

  • “Album” has evolved from 78 RPM records, vinyl LPs, CDs and MP3s…we still call them albums today — Rolling Stone and Billboard still compile “best album” lists and choose an “album of the year.”
  • “Library” once meant a physical collection of books, but it now means almost any collection of content — digital collections of content (visual or written), iPod music collections, etc.
  • “Magazine” was once only a print publication, now it is also digital and mobile app.
  • “Wireless,” as a communications term, was first used to describe telegraph messages, then became the term for early radio…today it powers just about everything we use to communicate and share and see and hear.
  • “Blackboard,” once the realm of chalk and dusty erasers, is often used today by schools to describe their digital platforms where students and teachers post homework and grades.

And then, of course, there is the symbolism that has managed to transition itself from the ancient analog age, because it had meaning that was more powerful than the march of progress of the Babblers:

  • The Floppy Disc on any document — which is the icon for “to save”
  • “CC” and “BCC” in emails, which originally stood for carbon copy and blind carbon copy
  • Voicemail icon on iPhone
  • Camera icon
  • Pencil/paintbrush icon

And allow me one more…a product this time:

  • Stylus used to mean a writing implement to write on wax-covered tablets. Now we use them to navigate on an iPad. And by the way, “pen” is the same.

And on and on…

Back to the former Newspaper Association…

In my opinion it has lost its vision, and with it, its mission.

Look around you…globally there is a crisis in confidence related in good part to the lack of veracity in the information that gets shared.

Gawker is down and out…KNEE-JERK ALERT…the DIGIBABBLISTS will point to them and with reverence say they changed reporting forever…NONSENSE…a few years from now no one will remember the name, but 100 years from now The New York Times, whether or not they still exist, will be treated with respect.

Imagine if the Newspaper Association had decided to associate its name with truth, fairness and depth in terms of reporting. Think about newspaper as an iconic image of a trusted source (OK…so it’s not always true now or ever…think vision), of the place you go to have a name associated with a story, an organization that would stand behind its reporting…and that membership meant adherence to a strict and enforced code of honor and ethics that would make credible any claim.

Let’s be clear, Gawker, in all its manifestations, has existed since people began to talk…and the need for verified news has always been its sidebar.

Truth is, I was struck by this story precisely because it represents all that pisses me off about our need to kowtow instead of standing up. Listen:

“Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” —  idiom

Jim Rutenberg, the author of The New York Times article I began with, ended his piece by saying: “There will be a lot less to mourn, and even something to celebrate, if we come to find that [the newspaper] has an everlasting soul that lives on.”

Sadly, it seems to me that we are capitulating…hopefully, someone wise will prevail…

What do you think?

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