I’m not going to qualify this statement by picking either print or digital formats because really, the issue of bring relevance to newspapers in the minds of younger (and even older) readers is platform-agnostic.
That being said, I’d like to make point out once again that every newspaper needs someone like Pete Vonder Haar on staff. If you read A Perfectly Cromulent Blog on a regular basis (I recommend just subscribing) you’ll find a mix of pop-culture observations, personal anecdotes and the most blistering dissection of the day’s headlines just about anywhere on teh interwebs. Take the riffing he does on this story of a rugby player who left his two-year-old daughter in the car while attending a party at a brothel.
I hung out with a lot of rugby players in college. They were, by and large, barely domesticated apes, given to drinking near-lethal amounts of alcohol while subjecting themselves and those around them to the foulest degradations imaginable. But even so, I’m pretty sure the same guys I watched swan dive out of a third-story window into a wading pool filled with Everclear and piss would have a hard time abandoning their child in a hot car while they went to party in a fer chrissakes brothel.
Who writes like that?
While Pete’s a great example of what I’m talking about, the point is that traditional news writing, while unquestionably still valuable, is not building connections with readers in the same way that blogs and other non-traditional outlets are. That’s because those blogs are written in a voice that sounds instantly familiar to the reader.
If I were a newspaper publisher in Texas, where Pete lives, who was looking to revitalize the paper’s readership I don’t think I could hire Pete fast enough. Let him write a column, let him blog, let him define the job himself and see what shakes loose.
The thing is there are people like Pete all over the internet and all over the country. They’re not that hard to find and can provide a valuable asset to the paper’s offerings as they look to make up online the readership they’re loosing in print.