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#wef11: ‘Newspapers need to work out what makes them unique and invest in it’

October 14th, 2011Posted by in Events, Newspapers

At the World Editors Forum in Vienna today there was a session which asked the question: what content should print newspapers focus on in order to survive and thrive?

Members of the panel shared a number of examples of the content which has worked for them, including special editions, building platforms for discussion and greater use of visualisation to explain complicated images.

But the overriding message was for newspapers to know what makes them unique and invest in this content, as outlined in detail by Han Fook Kwang, editor of the Straits Times in Singapore.

While other news outlets are cutting foreign correspondents, the Straits Times did the opposite.

We decided to invest heavily in our foreign correspondents and our ambition is to be the best English-language newspaper covering Asia. We believe we’re uniquely placed to do that.

You need to be clear about your focus and invest resources in it.

He also reiterated the point that in keeping this focus journalists must also make sure they fulfil their basic duty to make sense of the news.

You need to write stories in way readers understand and how it impacts their lives. We struggle with this every day when we report stories out of Europe.

Some papers do this very well. The Financial Times does a terrific job, not just in reporting but commentating, analysing and explaining to readers the complexity of issues.

There is a great opportunity. The world is a much more complex place. There are many issues that affect readers and newspapers should try to capitalise on it but they have to do it well.

In an age when there is instant communication, when everyone wants to be the first, preferably in 140 characters or less, newspapers also need to go back to core skills, to what they do well.

I don’t think newspapers are best are putting out news the minute it happens but we’re great storytellers and the reason why is because we have the tradition and resources to do this. In summary we should focus on good journalism, that hasn’t changed, but to do this you have to invest in good journalists. This starts from knowing your readers well and knowing what you mean to your users and what you represent to them.

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