Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2021

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Veteran journalists discuss future of news in digital age

Watchdog journalism needs to be preserved but finding a way to financially sustain it will remain a challenge in the coming years, industry experts said.

During a panel discussion Wednesday titled “The Death of Old News” hosted by the Black Mountain Institute at UNLV, three longtime journalists discussed how the Internet is impacting the news industry and the industry's financial struggles.

The panel included Las Vegas Sun President and Editor Brian Greenspun, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Alex Jones, and longtime journalist, author and executive editor and anchor of “PBS NewsHour” Jim Lehrer.

“Quality journalism costs money,” Lehrer said. “What’s happening now is that the resources to do quality journalism are diminishing. However, the professionals have realized that in order for us to survive, prosper and grow, we need to form cooperative ventures.”

Lehrer said “PBS NewsHour” has started to collaborate with Web operations such as ProPublica, GlobalPost and National Public Radio in an effort to reach a broader audience.

“I couldn’t care less if someone is watching the program on their pink iPod, just as long as they are watching,” Lehrer said.

Jones said that in an increasingly digital world, it is important to preserve the core journalism now produced by newspapers that many blogs, TV news programs and talk radio shows depend on.

“There is going to be an audience for news,” said Jones, who covered the media for The New York Times from 1983 to 1992. “The important thing for me is keeping it a democratically broad audience.”

Lehrer, Jones and Greenspun agreed that finding a way to monetize news on the Web is still an unknown for the news industry.

Jones said most newspapers still get more than half of their revenue from circulation of the print edition.

“We are finding that people are still paying for the paper, even though they can read it for free online,” Jones said.

Greenspun said a challenge newspapers and their communities face is that most papers are now owned by large corporations rather than families as in previous decades.

“They can’t possibly have the same interests in the growth of these communities as the previous owners,” Greenspun said.

Greenspun’s father, Hank Greenspun, purchased the Las Vegas Sun in 1950 and it has remained family-owned since then.

To bring community news closer to those who depend on it, Greenspun said, the Las Vegas Sun is in the process of launching the Home News, a local section of the Sun website that allows users to tailor the news they receive to their ZIP code.

The technology also will let users search crime data, housing prices, foreclosure listings and restaurant information within their ZIP code. The Home News is in the testing stage and will formally launch next week.

The project is also meant to be a financially viable opportunity for local businesses to advertise, Greenspun said.

“We think we can be the new Yellow Pages in the area, so that a small merchant can spend $50 a month and really reach the people in their neighborhood,” Greenspun said.

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