Newspapers are not dead

Print papers will always exist.

Not surprisingly that statement was made by the publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Va.).

Tom Silvestri, publisher of the RIchmond Times-Dispatch, says newspapers need to offer relevant content. (Photo by Killeen)

Tom Silvestri, publisher of the RIchmond Times-Dispatch, says newspapers need to offer relevant content. (Photo by Killian McGiboney)

Tom Silvestri provided a compelling argument at a recent talk. He argued that newspapers understand the diehard readers and voters. Further, he said, even millennials are interested in what newspapers offer – news of the community.

The key, Silvestri said, is that newspapers have to find a way to connect with the millennials’ interest in the community.

“Boring is boring. Interesting is interesting. News is news,” Silvestri said. “I know I sound like a cranky old city editor.”

The point he was making is that while some people claim that readers are drawn to shorter pieces on the web, Silvestri said a three-inch web story won’t get read if it’s boring.

To succeed, he said, newspapers must be interesting, relevant and technology savvy. The same holds true for online content.

Silvestri also spoke about the relentless pace of news, and the push to be first, which leads some outlets to publish (including online) before facts have been verified.

“Do you want to be first or do you want to be right?” Silvestri asked. “As a publisher you want to be both.”

He added that integrity as a value is a good thing. “If you are guided by your values you are often going to make the right choice,” he said.

Today there may be newer ways of telling stories, but one thing hasn’t changed. “To be a trusted news source you have to have the facts,” Silvestri said.

He described a newsroom as the “recorder of what is actually happening.”

To remain relevant, Silvestri said, people need to find value in what newspapers do and offer. “You can’t just move from print to online,” he said. “We have to be inventive.”

He shared how the Berkshire Hathaway (the parent company of the Richmond Times-Dispatch) newspaper in Omaha, Neb., capitalizes on the region’s focus on sports by offering online radio coverage.

One way the Richmond Times-Dispatch offers unique content is through its Public Square where a topic is offered and key players are available to discuss the subject with the community. The newspaper has offered more than 50 Public Squares with large and diverse audiences.

Quality and profit are judges of innovation, Silvestri added.