“What can the Internet do for us?”

June 22, 2017

By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter

Congratulations to Josh Moon, my colleague at The Alabama Political Reporter, for taking a couple of journalism awards from the Alabama Associated Press Managing Editors group. Those aren’t Moon’s first awards, and they likely won’t be his last.

Showing nothing but class, Moon put the awards in the correct perspective: We (journalists) do give awards to each other. I’ve won my share, including a Pulitzer Prize and five best editorial column awards from the Alabama Press Association over the years.

But Moon’s main point to the column he wrote Tuesday is the main point: “Quality journalism comes in many different forms.”

That same Alabama Press Association that gave me five best column plaques is indicative of the newspaper business in general.

Moon notes that the APA doesn’t recognize The Alabama Political Reporter as journalism. So we who write for APR can’t compete in APA’s annual awards competition.

That’s the same kind of backward thinking that helped doom the newspaper industry to begin with. Most newspapers were late-comers to the Internet. I remember telling one of my bosses at The Birmingham News in 1994 that we needed a presence on the Internet.

I wasn’t any kind of visionary. No, indeed. But I’ve always been an early adapter.

My boss responded curtly: “What can the Internet do for us?”

How about put us out of business?

I didn’t say that to him; I just shrugged and went back to my print journalism.

But see, we aren’t selling newspapers with our stories. We’re selling our journalism. Newsprint is simply a preferred delivery system – or it was for a long, long time.

Whatever delivery systems there are to get our journalism to the public, we ought to use.

After Amazon’s Kindle started sharing newspapers a few years back, I asked our publisher why The Birmingham News wasn’t there. He said it just wasn’t worth it.

That slow-to-act thinking is, again, what kept most newspapers – many of which are struggling today to hold subscribers and make money – behind the fast-changing technology.

Few newspaper publishers and editors in the mid-1990s and early 2000s were quick-thinkers.

The APA may not think APR is journalism, but the APA is wrong. The best political reporting in Alabama is being carried out by the journalists at The Alabama Political Reporter. Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard had to resign in disgrace after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges. One major reason: The journalism by APR, which aggressively pursued the story, despite the consequences, while print journalism mostly stayed away.

Nobody covers the Alabama Legislature better, or keeps pinpointing corruption and malfeasance in office better than APR.

But there are other online-only and alternative newspapers that practice fine journalism.

Weld, a once-a-week tabloid publication in Birmingham, is doing some amazing long-form journalism. But Weld also has a strong Internet presence.

Other weeklies in Birmingham and around the state are doing the same kind of stuff.

The so-called “legacy” newspapers – The News, Huntsville Times, and Mobile Press-Register, for example – are down to three-day-a-week publications. And their “offices” have big screens in every area keeping their journalists informed about how many clicks their stories are getting – on the Internet.

“What can the Internet do for us?”

Well, the Internet can turn really good newspapers into whispers of their former selves.

Folks, that’s exactly what’s happened.

I’m proud that The Alabama Political Reporter publishes my weekly political column. I’ve got nothing but respect for editor in chief Bill Britt, associate editor Susan Britt, Moon, and the other fine journalists and columnists who write for this “online-only” publication.

Online-only? Yeah, newspaper readers, get used to it.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

 

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