In 10 years, The City Paper has been through seven cover designs, three full-time editors, four interim editors, four art directors and seven page designers, more than 30 section editors, and at least 75 writers and photographers. If quantity counted for everything, we’d be competing with The Tennessean on more fronts than just the news.
CP has also been rather prolific in its form: We’ve gone from a daily newspaper printed on actual newsprint, to a bi-weekly media equivalent of a frog with a tail, to a Monday and Thursday glossy magazine that alternated between news and culture, and now to a Monday-only newsmagazine. We’ve maintained a website that features capsules of daily news from around the city and state.
It’s an evolution that I believe predicts what will happen with daily newspapers in the coming decade: As revenues continue to decline, major costs like printing and delivery will finally make the long, slow march to the guillotine. Dailies will restrict their run-of-the-mill coverage to the web and re-classify their print editions as unique, hyperlocal items that come out less frequently — maybe three times a week at first. More focus will be given to in-depth reporting, broader context and good narrative writing. Those are the kinds of things that give readers a reason to sit down with a magazine and spend some time reading.
So that’s one idea.
The other is that these media conglomerates continue to miss the point, which is that they’re not making the rules anymore. Consumers are.
This summer, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reported an increase in news consumption among Americans. Digital platforms are making up for the decline in consumption of traditional news sources like the newspaper, television and radio, and news gobbling has returned to the squawking-modem levels of the mid-1990s. Rather than giving up traditional forms, however, consumers of the news are supplementing them with new digital things: websites, iPads/Pods/Phones, Droids, HTC Incredibles, BlackBerry Bolds — you know the drill.
That’s good news for everyone in this business, regardless of format, for one key reason: It reminds of the value of the news at a time when cynicism about even the most fundamental reporting is high and people with opposing political views cannot so much as agree on basic facts.
But it also reminds that we must be nimble and agile as everything around us continues to shapeshift. That’s what we’re going for here, and sometimes I think we even get there. I certainly believe we give readers something they get nowhere else, and that’s the goal.
I’m happy and honored to help usher The City Paper into a new decade of existence. In the coming pages, you’ll find a little bit about our genesis, some well-intentioned criticism from a person you’ll probably remember, a word from the only person whose name has been on the masthead the whole decade, and our collection of Top 10s — 15 different lists taking you back through the last decade of this weird little life we have in Nashville. Over the next few days, check our website for a look back through the last decade.
We hope you enjoy. We certainly have — all of us.