Just last week, I really screwed up a story about LC Exec Don Cunningham. He was pretty good about it. I only have to wash his car for the next year. That's better than Capitol Ideas' John Micek, who also screwed up, although not nearly so badly as me. He has toilet detail. More readers.
Eric Chiles, a former member of the Morning Call's editorial board, knows all this. He asked me to speak to his Journalism 101 class anyway. Teaching common journalism errors, he thought of me immediately. So I spent about an hour dealing with "Just how dumb are you?" and "Your fly is open, jackass." When it was all over, I got a coffee mug. Eric is very thoughtful.
After I was done, the class allowed me to remain for Eric's lecture. I probably should have attended a few of those before I started blogging. But I learned some things, and want to share them with you. He paints a dark forecast.
1) The Morning Call reports its most recent circulation figures in a factually accurate article that contains a very misleading headline. The headline screams, "Morning Call readership rises by 9.2 percent." The reality? "The paper's daily print circulation, a measure of people paying for the newspaper, dropped 8.9 percent to 99,111 compared with a year ago. Total Sunday print circulation, which is typically the most profitable day for newspaper advertising, dropped 7.2 percent to 130,693."
2) The daily circulation is under 100,000 for the first time in 38 years.
3) Coverage of important local issues, like the Bethlehem City Council race, is wanting. "I'm still waiting to find out who Eric Evans is. I see yard signs all over the place, but don't know who he is." (The Morning Call did cover Evans' announcement in a blog.)
4) Newspapers are going away. Chiles predicts that, like news carriers and ad salesmen, reporters will soon be converted into independent contractors.
5) Newspapers are going away. The Internet is taking over. He believes citizen journalists will pick up the slack, assuming the role of Colonial era citizens who published pamphlets that bashed the King.
6) Editors will be replaced by algorithms in search engines.