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More On That Speech Given By Dean Singleton: An Interesting Perspective From A Commenter Who Used To Work For Him

Posted by: Jon Fine on July 16, 2008

Commented DDDenver, who identifies him- or herself as a former newspaper new media type, posted a frank and sharp response to this post concerning MediaNews Group CEO Dean Singleton’s recent speech to the World Newspaper Congress.

I found it so interesting I’m reprinting it in full. Your thoughts?

I worked for Singleton in the 90's when [MediaNews Group] was kicking off their online efforts. He was down the hall from us and would occasionally stop by to chat.

There is no doubt in my mind that the man is a driven business man who sees a future for information providers that few in the newspaper industry can see or understand. Does he slash costs, "gut" the staff, and change the practice and feel of the newspapers he buys? Absolutely. In his article he mentions department stores, auto manufacturers, and airlines.

Newspapers have long been filled with those who consider themselves the high priests of the Fourth Estate. And I think there is a bit more nobility in working in the press than in plumbing. Yet the consumer pays your paychecks, fourth-estaters, and your business is dying. This is one reason Singleton has been able to build his empire by buying from people who want out of the ever difficult business of newspapers.

I agree with the earlier poster about newspapers changing their "core product" to be information providers. Yet all the whining and complaining about the man Dean Singleton seems to be an easier outlet for you industry people than going and doing such a thing as marketing your "information gathering and providing" skills in the full realm of media (most likely online). Easier to attack a person and their efforts to "save" newspapers (in their way and in their defintion of saved) than to do it yourself.

That kind of wishful-thinking stranglehold on the past is why I left "new media." I didn't have the patience for all the speeches (several I saw from Dean to Publishers, Editors etc.), planning meetings (which were really low-level technology training classes), and resistance-to-change infighting I saw amongst my traditional newspaper co-workers at MNG.

I do think there is a place for professional journalism in the coming decades. I just think newspapers have so wrapped themselves in chains of the past (e.g. the guild, non pay-for-results advertising, dependent upon bright-eyed-change-the-world journalism school grads) that they will sink and drown under their own weight.

Singleton may "save" something from them and he may too be pulled under. Regardless, I know from listening to the man (and drawing a paycheck in his New Media effort in the 90s) that he better understands the challenges facing newspaper COMPANIES than 90% of the journalists I dealt with in my time at MNG and since leaving to work in more open-minded industries.

Call me a quitter, but good luck, y'all.



The media world continues to shapeshift as new forms arise and old assumptions erode. On this blog, Bloomberg Businessweek will provide sharp analysis and timely reports on the transformation of this constantly changing terrain.



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