The final speaker in our series lent his perspective on the state of the print media, specifically newspapers.
When he arrived at the Oregonian Media Group just over five months ago to be the editor of the state’s largest daily paper (as well as OMG’s VP of Content), Mark Katches was walking into an environment still reeling from a major restructuring in June 2013, one that had resulted in significant numbers of layoffs.
[For an interesting analysis of the task facing Katches when he started at OMG last July, read Ken Doctor’s Nieman blog post here.]
Katches, however, was no stranger to unsettled newsrooms, having worked for a newspaper that folded in the 1980s. “I know a lot of people talk about disruption in the newspaper industry,” said Katches. “This industry is always going to be in a state of disruption from now on.”
[During his remarks, Katches referred to a leaked New York Times internal memo on that paper’s need for new digital innovation. Read the memo and an analysis of it here.]
Discussing what he called The Oregonian‘s “digital first” culture, Katches said that “I don’t even refer to ourselves as a newspaper anymore.” Instead, the printed paper is really just a curated selection of the vast quantities of content posted to the OMG website, oregonlive.com. For example, they no longer employ photo editors; instead, reporters provide some of their own images, and staff photographers are encouraged to upload virtually all of their images to the website, allowing viewers to sort through large galleries.
“I’m not here to grow our newspaper circulation,” he said, “although we’re not giving up on print.”
Despite the shift in focus away from the printed product–which included a reduction in home delivery days–the former investigative reporter sees a bright future for what he calls “Big-J journalism” at the Oregonian Media Group. “We’re going to do more big-J journalism than ever before,” he said. Time will tell if Katches and his boss, publisher N. Christian Anderson III, will be able to maintain a thriving digital enterprise with so many wolves growling at the door.