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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tennessean's Deborah Fisher discusses News 2.0

Tennessean senior editor Deborah Fisher spoke to the Nashville chapter of the Public Relations Society of America today and addressed the current and future direction of the newspaper. Fisher became senior editor this past December and has been heavily involved in the recent content changes in the print edition and the paper's significant embrace of its Web site and social media in the past several months.

While The Tennessean isn't announcing any major personnel changes or abrupt shifts in its focus, this presentation came in the wake of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's February 21 announcement that it will shift its content for younger readers to the Web and focus its print edition on an older audience. Fisher explained The Tennessean's reasoning behind its changes in content strategy:

"The Tennessean wanted to restructure because the way people get information has changed so much... It's not just the paper reaching people any more ... So many people have moved online. Many use PCs or PDAs to get breaking news online during the day. Our goal is to provide news when they want it and how they want it."
Fisher acknolwedged the organization's concerns about recent downsizing and acquisition trends in the industry and specifically mentioned the AJC's unexpected announcement. As the Poynter Institute's Rick Edmonds recently said about the Atlanta announcement, The Tennessean is yet another paper trying "to find the magic balance between print and online."

While The Tennessean is not abandoning its print edition or altering it on the drastic level that the AJC is proposing, Fisher acknowledged that the paper's print circulation is declining, as it is for nearly all papers across the country, and that online page viewing is booming: "The web is definitely seeing a double-digit increase. It's huge. There has been a phenomenal growth in page views and unique visitors. There's a whole set of metrics that we look at."

In discussing strategy, Fisher returned consistently to variations on the following talking points, including references to "getting information to people in different ways" and "continuing the conversation." These phrases and the messaging below echo the mission and values of The Tennessean's parent company Gannett:
"Everything in the world of journalism eventually comes down to the reporter. Good journalism really does start with the reporter, and it comes down to the reporter's passion for his or her beat. That passion ends up leading to a good story."
When asked, Fisher said that she did not foresee a time when the newspaper would abandon its print edition:
"As long as people want to consume information in different ways, I think there will always be a print product. There are some limitations to the Web. Newspapers will go away when books go away. I think there will be a print edition for a long time. We will have to continue editing it for what people expect. I don't think the print edition will entirely go away."
I will share more details from Fisher's presentation today later this afternoon.

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