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Densmore: Keep values, principles and purposes of journalism by making online more interactive

February 13, 2010

Bill Densmore. Photo by Audrey Sawyer

By Heather Holm

The news media is looking for new ideas and different platforms to stay afloat.

Bill Densmore started his speech “From Gatekeepers to Info Valets—The New Opportunity for Newspapers” telling participants they are all experts.

Joe Hight, director of information and development for the Oklahoman/NewsOK, introduced Densmore and said journalists should get away from the doom and gloom and the worry of news dying out with the understanding that they do have a purpose.

Densmore said that newspapers should start charging for online content in order to protect print and that newspapers have found users would pay for niche content, sports, special interest stories and news streams as well as other online content.

He also mentioned that readers want trustworthiness, control, value and access when looking for news content.

“Newspapers should be brokers of information,” Densmore said.

At the moment, news consumers spend most of their time on big daily newspaper websites, such as the Chicago Tribune and New York Times, and spend less than one minute online.

However, since newspapers have 40 million paying customers, journalists should try to build a relationship base beyond newspapers and create a social network through news content.

“Print is not the only way to deliver stuff anymore,” Densmore said.

A video of students part of News Literary Seminar in the Reynolds Journalism Institute was shown during the presentation where students said, with online, they could have a digital high-five and that the ink was trapped in newspapers making them less interactive.

After Densmore’s talk, the group discussed ways to innovate with their web sites.

Matt Myftui, from the Oakland Press, said that his newspaper tries to put up as many videos online as possible along with photos and stories that did not make it into the paper. He said the Press also has an Epaper, which is an exact replica of the newspaper in a PDF form online.

“The goal is to provide content from the newspapers on the Web,” Myftui said. “Soon people won’t even need the paper.”

Anne Gregory, from the Journal Gazette in Ft. Wayne, Ind., said paying for online content might become a problem. Readers do not like giving out their personal information because of possible hackers, and they would have to do this if newspapers started charging for online content.

Tammy Merrett-Murry, adviser from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, said she is trying to get students working for her newspaper to get the readers more involved with online content, such as interactive restaurant reviews or what students did over the weekend.

“I’m trying to push students to get audience involved past the occasional quiz and somehow get readers involved in providing the information,” she said.

Densmore agreed and said readers should be creators rather than only participants with the news.

More of Densmore’s sites on the web:


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