Despite the belief that newspapers will soon be obsolete thanks to cable news and the internet, I can now report that newspapers will never die, and that you can thank television for it.
So says legendary newspaper man Ben Bradlee, vice president of the Washington Post.
In an interview with Editor and Publisher, Bradlee, 84, who still comes to the office every day because, he jokes, his wife wouldn’t tolerate him hanging around the house all day, says that the newspaper “has been and will continue to be the main source of news for television, if you really study it. They process newspapers until they get their own reporters into the story.”
There shouldn’t be any surprise that television newsrooms subscribe to the newspaper. But I doubt that it would be reasonable to suggest that newspaper reporters never watch news on television or online. Different news media rely on each other to continue the story and drum up additional details that weren’t available at the individual medium’s deadline.
Some television news departments work out relationships, formal or not, with local newspapers. It’s not about trying to control what is reported; it’s a matter of working together to get the facts out sooner. And even without such collaboration, I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve seen local newspapers add a line in a news story that “local television station WXXX-TV is reporting that….”
There’s give and take. But there’s give and take in both directions.
And though in some ways print and broadcast journalism compete with each other, they’re not each other’s enemy: rarely does a news consumer only use one or the other without sampling some of both.
If newspapers are to continue long into the future, and I think they will, it will be because of the content they publish and how well they serve their subscribers, no matter what field in which those readers happen to work.