• Cebu Journalism & Journalists Online has started a discussion on the subject “Reinventing the Newspaper,” a series of articles on print media crisis, particularly its impact on community newspapers. Check out the magazine at www.cebujournalism.org.
WAS the conversion of Cebu Daily News to a completely digital news operation a loss to print media in Cebu? Absolutely.
It was not a matter of whether people love newspapers or, particularly CDN, but a question of the value of newspapers, or more precisely CDN, in keeping its audience informed and helping “build the community” and the nation.
Sadness over the change is also about not being able to read CDN on paper anymore--or the disruption in the newsroom and the anxiety that it inevitably brings.
More relevantly, however, to those managing the operations, in CDN and a number of other newspapers all over the world, the crucial issue is about economics: Expenses exceed revenue and the way to survive and prosper is to transfer to another platform. CDN editor-in-chief Edralyn Benedicto, in the paper’s final print edition last Dec. 31, said they’re “closing one door but opening another door.”
Newspaper norms, technology
Two things to keep in mind before going further:
 A newspaper performs a task that still has to be duplicated online: organized, systematic gathering and checking of information (a) to make sense of the welter of events and issues and (b) provide the reader a better understanding of the world around him. Newspaper standards, policies, structure and presentation are not yet seen in news and opinion web sites.
 Technology’s impact on print media, however, seems irreversible. Paper as carrier of media content cannot compete in cost and speed with smart phones, computers and tablets. Which must lead to (a) newspapers migrating to the world of web and, one can hope, (b) transporting its standards and norms to the digital operations.
Saving grace, difficulties
The saving grace is that CDN has brought with its transfer people who have worked with the paper in its nearly 21 years of publishing.
Its journalists have been trained in the job of getting the story right and reporting and commenting on it with this largely in mind: to help make the reader understand his community better and live a better life.
A newspaper that has turned digital is expected to strive for that, despite possible difficulties that downsizing of personnel and coverage might cause. Steady and substantial revenue from digital news media is still not assured (the pay wall may not yet pay). Thus tightrope walking may be required, which even such entities as the “Wall Street Journal” and “Washington Post” never forget though they have been doing well on the digital platform.
The trick, it appears to me, is to combine speed and quality, virtues that are devoutly wished for but often tough to do. In news media, that’s even harder: How can one be quick and yet produce a story that is thoroughly checked, well-written and efficiently edited?
A news outfit that can supply that kind of product for today’s media consumer--who wants his news wherever, whenever he is and in whatever device on hand--will survive and thrive. Print, digital, or both.
New ‘vicious cycle’
Community media may be coming to a full circle. In the late ‘70s up to the ‘80s, newspapers outside Manila faced what we then called a “vicious cycle”: They could not improve practices and values because of economic straits. With inferior quality, they could not increase their audience and get the readership the advertisers wanted. With inadequate revenues. they could not expand. And so on, in a mean and vexing cycle.
That might be the emerging situation. Even with digital platform, a paper could be stuck in a “vicious cycle” of another form.