Everyone knows that the struggling economy, demographics and changing ways of getting information have had a significant impact on the newspaper industry. Joe Bradley, the editor and publisher of The Maui News, knows it better than most. Last month, he dropped by the Rotary Club of Kihei Sunrise to share his experience, insights and views about the future of newspapers.
Bradley began his remarks by commenting about the impact of the Internet on the newspaper industry. Papers gave away their product on the Internet, and it "devastated the industry," he said.
A 15-year history of giving news content away and simultaneously publishing in print has created a problem. According to Bradley, "Go anywhere on Maui and have a story about Maui--90 percent chance it was written by The Maui News."
Joe Bradley, editor and publisher of The Maui News, tells the Rotary Club of Kīhei Sunrise that the Internet “devastated” the newspaper industry to a degree not like any other earlier challenges.
"We have to charge or we will go out of business," Bradley said, describing the danger of a free Website. "Everybody is chasing the same ad dollar."
To avoid that outcome, The Maui News will put in place a fee structure that will be decided upon in the next few months.
Bradley said that the mauinews.com Website has 13,000 visitors a day.
Describing the readers of The Maui News, Bradley said typical readers are in their 50s. He commented that a lot of young people don't read. He said that readers who are newer immigrants are not replacing older Japanese readers.
A 2005 survey conducted for the newspaper found that the average reader spent 13 minutes on the daily paper and 20 minutes on the Sunday paper. Visitors to the Website stayed an average of four minutes.
The Maui News prints over 20,000 papers on Sunday and over 17,000 weekdays and Saturdays. With more than one person reading the Sunday paper, Bradley estimated that "We have between 40,000 and 50,000 readers on Sunday."
With 42 years in the world of newspapers--this is the seventh state in which he has published a newspaper--Bradley said the most important aspect of the business that appears to capture his passion is what he calls "pure journalism."
To Bradley, the Internet and cable are largely about opinion. Only one side of the story is heard, and when that happens, "one side doesn't understand the other side," he said.
Of paramount importance to Bradley is "the objective, factual reporting of a story, while seeking to inform accurately and truthfully." Also important is the willingness to correct mistakes if a factual error has been made in a story.
Addressing Rotary club members as if he were a guest speaker at a University of Hawai'i journalism class, Brad-ley said, "Journalism is not interpretive. The problem with interpretation is that you get into opinion."
Bradley believes " in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, interpretive journalism hurt our industry." He points to the Internet and how it has taken interpretative journalism to new heights and the other side is not let in. For Bradley, objective journalism is getting harder to find.
And yet, surprisingly, one of his favorite journalists--and one that he believes is a practitioner of pure journalism--is the Washington Post's Bob Woodward.
"You can see that he is a pure journalist that turns out books that embarrass their subjects," said Bradley. "Why do they let him interview them? It's because he presents all sides. And when you read his books, you come way informed because he presents the facts."
"We like to think that in our business, we clearly label opinion," said Bradley.
Bradley came to live on Maui permanently in 2003 after spending a year managing the newspaper's transition into the Ogden publications group, which purchased The Maui News in 2000.
Now he is in the midst of a perfect storm: a still struggling economy, tightening revenues, changing readership, demographics, the onslaught of the Internet and the battle for every advertising dollar.
For Bradley, the way out of this storm is to continue to produce a newspaper that responds to new economic challenges, is well run, that presents the facts, informs the public and contributes to the community.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Bradley urged his audience to pressure the media to provide objective journalism. "It's important to know if you are receiving opinion or news," he said.
And if you watch cable TV, Bradley's advice is that you not stay tuned to just one channel; instead, watch several to get both sides of the story.