We knew things have been rough for the newspaper industry, who have been grappling to maintain both their online and print identities and struggling to fend off take overs, but things must really be getting desperate. The Washington Post has released a memo to its staff addressing the "Ten Principles for Washington Post Journalism on the Web." Overall, the memo emphasized the Post's "commitment on the Web to around-the-clock breaking news, scoops and original Washington Post added-value journalism, in addition to multimedia and interactivity."
Recognizing the necessary flexibility that the Web demands, The Post is taking measures to ensure that they keep their users up-to-date with news as it happens, offer more interactive formats and features and start embracing the "journalistic evolution" by which these Ten Principles are inspired.
Most news consumers have taken a "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" approach when deciding between paying for print news and being able to access online news for free. According to a study conducted by the Newspaper Association of America in May, "the audience for newspaper websites is growing faster percentage-wise than the Internet audience at large."
An audience who is educated, gainfully employed and inclined to shop online is good news for online newspapers but bad for print newspapers, and overall is a challenge to the industry, as "newspaper companies are having a hard time monetizing those audiences at levels high enough to offset losses from print advertising declines."
The Washington Post is obviously feeling the squeeze to make their site better, even it means letting journalists have a little more elbow room with which to work and cover breaking stories as they arise. They are designating editors to focus more on and be trained in Web journalism and forming committees to help them reach out to their minority demographics.
The Post's Ten Principles almost seem silly though. Its as if they are announcing themselves at an Online-Newspaper Anonymous meeting, with statements like "We will emphasize enterprise, analysis, criticism and investigations in our online journalism." (principle number 4) or "We recognize and support the central role of opinion, personality and reader-generated content on the Web" (principle number 7) and "Our deadline schedules, newsroom structures and forms of journalism will evolve to meet the possibilities of the Web" (principle number 8). I guess it's courageous for a traditionally print-oriented publisher to release any type of Web mission statement, but this one reads like an admittance of guilt.
Why weren't they adhering to these principles until now?
The industry must accept new media as a viable source of information dissemination and can no longer consider it inferior to print. Perhaps it was Principle 5 that said it best: "journalism published online has the same value as journalism published in the newspaper."