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Michael Brown  On News


There's always room for hard news. Most newspapers, your hard news is one, three, five, and six, or one, three, and five in most newspapers. Unless you have a very different section, like some papers have maybe a very metro section. If anything happened in maybe a particular section of the city. There's alway room for hard news, because that's what sells. But also what sells — something the reader can identify with. Sectional, or zoning, if you will, neighborhood, community. That's how come community newspapers are so important. That's how come they're so successful. They don't give you a potpourri of the whole city. What they do is, a local neighborhood newspaper will give you just what's happening in that neighborhood, and those people will pick that up and read that. Though in the industry we call those papers throwaways because they're not subscribed to by people, but advertisers advertise in them because people in that particular neighborhood will pick that up and read about that information. Now what has happened?

Metropolitan newspapers say, "Ah, there's something here." That's how the suburban bureaus developed. As a copy of the neighborhood section. That's how zoning developed in newspapers. In the wrapper, the front is the same. But the inside may be very specific to a Chatham, to an Uptown, to a Northwest suburb in your metropolitan newspapers. The inside may be different. Because it's very neighborhood-specific. So my point is, hard news is important, so is those things you're going to talk about, some of those you're going to talk about relative to neighborhoods, because people still want to be able to identify with and know what's going on. That's why we talk about the "who," "what," "where," "when" and "why" and "how's." That's why addresses will always be important. That's why names or ages are going to always be important. "This happened on 4700 North and Sheridan Road? Well I live on 4900 North and Sheridan Road! This is right around my house! This incident happened!" "This guy is 55, and he's a millionaire? Wow, let me get into this!" That's why those kind of things are always going to be important in news writing. In hard news, as well as features, goes very identity-specific and hard news helps us identify and delineate what's going on in society, the good and the bad.


News is subjective. News is not objective. News is determined by us, those in the media. We make the news. We determine what's important, what is not important. The Persian Gulf War, you gonna tell me there was no other wars in the world? There's 69 wars going on in this world. But during the Persian Gulf War we only reported on one. Bottom line. We determine the news. We determine what's important. We determine what you as the reader or as the viewer are going to look at on any given night, or going to read about in the afternoons. We determine that. The news call becomes what the newspaper, individual newspaper thinks. I was having a discussion with this with our general manager and our city editor recently. Newspapers used to be very, very proactive. Print, eventually, with modern technology advances and hand-held newspapers and calculator form, they very soon will become proactive again. But right now newspapers are reactive. Newspapers react to the morning news, five o'clock on television. Television determines the news. Just that simple. All newspapers' managing editors and editors, when you hear something that says Tribune news wires, yeah, they was watching television. It's a rewrite of television. Just that simple. Television, television is so immediate, why do you think news has went from six o'clock news to ten o'clock news, we have four o'clock news, five o'clock news, six o'clock news, ten o'clock news. And a 24-hour news channel. This is my point.


Five o'clock in the morning. Six o'clock in the morning. If something breaks, something breaks tonight, or something breaks in the morning overnight, it's gonna be on television. And depending on how television plays that up, if they play it up very, very high profile, I guarantee you every newspaper in this city will be following the story that the television say is important. Regardless of what we call, because that's what will sell the newspapers. We try to sell news, see, we're a business. You must understand, newspaper's not a public service. We are a business. 85 percent of our revenue comes from advertisement sales. And if advertisers do not advertise in newspaper, we don't have a newspaper. We cannot meet our payroll. We must sell newspapers, headlines, etc., you're jumping, moving from page, and USA Today made us all aware of that, your front page must jump, your front page must move. We must be able to change that front page into video screen, somehow. If you cannot change that newspaper front page, the wrapper, into a video screen, you're in trouble. Look at the changes in your soda pop cans. They're becoming hip hoppin' now. Look at the changes in your standard, one of the oldest things you've ever seen, all of us remember as kids, Kool-Aid, the package is so brightly colored now, these guys on television rappin' about Kool-Aid. Your grandma would probably roll over in her grave. Same thing with the newspaper front page. It must now, because of television, your newspaper front page, your wrapper, must become a new wrapper every day. It must move because it's competing, not with other newspapers anymore, it's competing with television.


Your banner's always at the top, it's your big head. You don't have a banner, use a large photograph. Why it's on the front page, because that's what's hot in Chicago right now. Shootings. Drive-bys. Children being shot because of gang members, a stray bullet because of gang members fighting one another. That's why it's on the front page, because it is a very prevalent, conscious issue in Chicago. That's why it's on the front page. Recently, the Tribune, every time a child was shot or injured in Chicago, any form of abuse, any type of child death in Chicago, the Tribune ran it on their front page as their concern about child abuse. It was a great cause-marketing piece. We talk about cause marketing. They don't do that anymore. That cause market effort has changed.

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