Jones: “Beating the defense”

In a full page letter to the public in Sunday’s paper, The Virginian-Pilot’s president and publisher, Maurice Jones, laid out what is coming for the paper – and it ain’t pretty:

As we look ahead at the next 12-18 months, it is our belief that the economy will remain our most formidable rival.

What are we going to do about this? We must continue to take what the defense gives us: reduced income opportunities mean we must continue to reduce our costs. More tough decisions are necessary.

The newspaper will continue to shrink in size and more people will be laid off.

This does not bode well for the only newspaper on the Southside of Hampton Roads.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Pilot needs to provide in-depth coverage of local news and issues that readers cannot get elsewhere. Make it the go-to source for that. None of the other media outlets can compete.

Having been an unpaid contributor to the opinion pages of the paper for over a year now, I can tell you from the emails I get that the people who read the paper are starved for that kind of information. The key is to increase the reader base, and thereby justify to advertisers the spending of their dollars, which I know isn’t an easy task.

As a community, we cannot afford to lose the one thing that has the ability to be the tie that binds us together. I hope this is the last of the cuts the newspaper has to suffer.


32 thoughts on “Jones: “Beating the defense”

  1. On the subject of the evolution of journalism, Bob Gibson, Executive Director of the UVA Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, recently said: “I think our journalism and our politics are changing at an ever-increasing rate. The rapid change in journalism is very unsettling to the business. They are finding new business models that can work for newspapers in the internet age. Radio and television are also cutting back as advertising has shifted. They have to find working business models. They’ve also started cooperating with non-profit groups…. I think new partnerships are going to change the way the media is covering the news and the way the platforms are for reporting the news…. Everyone is trying new business models because old print newspaper empires will die if they view themselves as old print newspaper empires. They are either in the news business or in the newspaper business, and if they are in the news business they will adapt a new business model and survive. If they are in the newspaper business, they’ll just go out of business.” (Gibson appeared on the interview program Politics Matters with host Jan Paynter discussing journalism

  2. Maybe if they started reporting and covering news instead of biasing it to the left their readership would improve. It has become such a left wing rag that no thinking non partisan nor republican seems to want to pick it up. It is painfully obvious but the left wing editorial board does what they want to do. Diversity is dead there.

    They need more right wingers, tea party, left wingers non partisans, etc to round out the paper. Playing to just one corner of the tent does not compare to working the crowd like the paper used to. Just sayin with all due respects Viv..

  3. And yes I would fire at least half the writers they have.. You Vivian are one of their stand up contributors.. And they need to do a better job of writing without bias.. Think Bernard Shaw at CNN.. He was the last great one they had and they have gone the same way the paper has and it aint mainstream big tent.

    The money for the paper is in the middle under a wide net. To look and not see the problem with this paper is to not look. Ask people from other similar demographic cities to rank our paper and it is humiliating. We do not have a national paper nor a local paper.. we have a giant ad section with a lot of spotty biased coverage mixed in with occasional good journalism.

    1. I disagree that the news is biased. There is a difference between news – which I don’t do, and opinion, which is what I do. The editorial board is made up of people with an opinion – as it should be. In fact, the editorial boards of papers all have opinions – the RTD, Daily Press and Wall St Journal are generally considered to be conservative editorial boards, while the Roanoke Times and the Washington Post are generally considered progressive.

      The Pilot doesn’t need reporters with an opinion. No serious news organization does.

      1. Don’t editors edit? So when a reporter writes about a GOP tax plan, it become a tax scheme when the editor is done. A semi-automatic rifle — though less powerful than the average deer rifle (the round used in the M16 is illegal for use on deer because it is not powerful enough for a clean kill) — becomes an assault-weapon.

          1. I read it when I am down there. Used to get both the VP and the Ledger Star when I lived there. One paper for the morning, and one for the afternoon!

            Let me give you a more subtle example from today’s Pilot:

            “The unanimous decision Thursday by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the second appellate court ruling affirming the government’s right to require individuals to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.”

            RIGHT? People have rights. Governments have POWERS.

            Reading on a little, the Court did not even say what the Pilot says it said:

            “We hold that Virginia, the sole plaintiff here, lacks standing to bring this action,” Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote in an opinion released Thursday. “Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of the district court and remand with instructions to dismiss the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.”

            The Court did not rule that the federal government had any right or power, but only that Virginia did not have standing to bring the case.

            That is why people have stopped reading the Pilot.

  4. It seems harder and harder every where I go to find out what is happening locally. That is why I like reading the local papers. The problem with blogs is you don’t know if they verify things before they put them up a lot of times they just post what is sent to them. I don’t feel that is the case for all just most. Example I trust when I read your blog or bearingdrift that I know you all have looked into things before they went up. That is definitely not the case for all blogs around here. Newspapers are considered a trusted source for that reason because they also verify facts.

    I was at a convention in Atlanta a year ago and about 300 people were talking on this very subject with someone from the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Everyone in the room got their local papers from where they lived. It was for the same reason local news that has been verified.

    I think local papers should charge for on-line stories. either a monthly fee or a 5 cent (or whatever amount) fee per article. The pilot has a pay on line version but it also has a free which carries most of its stories. The daily press is just free. Someone in the convention made this recommendation and the entire room agreed they would pay the per article just because it would save them time verifying if what was said was true.

    And Turbo is right all papers should be non-partisan and when they print opinions they should have opinions from various sides.

    1. There has been a tremendous amount of conversation over the years that I’ve been blogging as to whether bloggers are journalists. In a very broad sense, I think most bloggers are not journalists; instead, they are advocates. Bloggers generally lack the ability to do even in-depth advocacy, because few bloggers, particularly political ones, are making a living at this. Far too many of them are not concerned with accuracy, because traffic is what matters.

      I think we are going to see more paywalls for newspaper sites. The NY Times has one and has been successful.

      As for opinions – the Pilot’s print edition does include opinion from most sides. Heck, they put me side-by-side with Cal Thomas last week 😉

  5. There is one way to have an unbiased newspaper. Invent unbiased people, who become unbiased journalists. A little simplistic, but people write, people have biases.

    What a great paper will do is make sure all biases are covered. All opinions (also biased) are presented and the public can make a decision about what, or who, to believe. I think the paper does an ok job of that.

    I think they do a pretty good job with news, too. News should be “just the facts”. And usually I find that the case.

  6. It is bound to happen more and more. I am sure the people thought paper was a great thing didn’t count on the stone tablet devotees.

    As hard as it is to fathom, newspapers will go away. Part of the interest in reading anything (for me) is holding it in my hand, whether it is a book, newspaper or pamphlet. No one should expect that companies that print newspapers will do it out of the goodness of their hearts. My old hometown paper “The Rocky Mountain News” died three years ago. It was a paper owned by a large media conglomerate, (Scripps Howard) but the future didn’t bode well for continuing a shrinking business in the face of competition.

    Sad to say, but they will be gone in the next ten years I bet.

    1. I agree I will hate it when the printed paper goes away. I am on the computer at a min 12hours a day. When I take a break I like reading a printed paper or printed book. But I think you are right they will go away and I will miss them.

  7. The bottom line is money. Stockholders and the bean counters want more money; they could give a damn about the news business. The Pilot has one of the most talented pool of photographers (Pulitzer winners) and there will be cuts across the board. This is happening everywhere. A photographer in DC who just won the Edmond R. Murrow award is being laid off from Reuters. Unfortunately talent does not matter anymore – it’s the almighty dollar. And I know you have to earn a profit to stay in business but as some others have mentioned – a new business model is necessary to survive this changing world of journalism.

  8. Sadly, the paper is in a catch 22 situation. While I totally agree that more in depth local reporting is needed, reporters don’t have the time or other resources to do it in today’s business model. What’s the solution?

    1. I disagree that the reporters don’t have the time. They are not allowed the time. Besides, not every story needs to be an-depth reporting. How about just SOME reporting? Where, for example, was the Pilot Monday when Bobby Scott announced that he wasn’t running for Senate? Given that his district extends into Norfolk, wouldn’t it have been appropriate for them to actually have somebody at his picnic?

      There are local stories happening all the time that don’t even merit a blurb in the newspaper.

      If I can come up with a column every week on the issues that affect Hampton Roads – and I don’t do this for a living – surely the Pilot can.

  9. And… the front page of the newspaper today? A full color spread of last night’s debate plus an article pulled together from wire reports. How, exactly, is that news relevant to the readers of the Pilot? And how, exactly, is that news any different from anything they could have gotten elsewhere?

    What a waste of newsprint!

    If the Pilot dies, it will be because of stuff like this.

  10. defense of the Pilot front page…that’s an important national news story that presumably a large number of their readers are interested in.

    I agree that they could have gotten it from other sources, but is it good for the survival of the Pilot to make their readers seek out alternative sources for national news?

    However, I agree that the future of local newspapers is to become more local. Bloggers won’t sit through City Coouncil and Planning Commission meetings for free, unless they come there with an agenda. Hell, sometimes I can barely sit through them and I’m getting paid. Community news, including local sports, local government news and state government news will probably be the staples of the new newspapers.
    We will still need to find a business model that works. We haven’t yet. Who would have guessed that the only form of advertising more worthless than print advertising would be online advertising?


    1. You bring up a good point Steve. If the paper does not do a good job of covering local government it makes life easier for them since they can evade more public scrutiny if people are less informed. There are hundreds of stories not covered because of a lack or penetration by writers investigating stories that are tough access. Yes the paper has a few damn good writers but the paper is still by and large too biased. If other successful papers are benchmarked from similar demographic cities which ones are thriving?

      If they put more emphasis on in depth local reporting that hit before others they still could not overcome the fact that printed and distributed media is pricey and wastes a lot of fuel..

      Look at the top 100.. their circulation numbers all have something in common.. They are dropping like lead balloons.

    2. I’m trying to get some perspective here but … are you serious? A large number of Pilot readers are interested in a full color picture of the current crop of candidates, most of which won’t be around next month? Front page above the fold?

      A story on the debate, yes. But front page? Absolutely not.

      And I should also mention that there’s hardly a mention of that story on PilotOnline, which, presumably, also represents the newspaper’s readers.

  11. Liberals do not see that kind of editing because they do not look at articles from others perspectives.

    Wrong, Turbo. Unless, that is, that you know every single liberal in the country.

    Whenever someone makes a blanket statement about a group of people, it just demonstrates the small-mindedness of the writer. If you want to have a serious conversation about anything, stop projecting your own biases on everyone else.

    1. I am projecting mine as you do yours. And there is nothing wrong with that. We see things differently Viv and that is what makes this such a great country. Bring this to the paper and make the best of it. Look where circulation is up or down and make your own assumptions while bearing in mind that like the paper even network news is in the same boat.. younger people get their news online be it reading or video.. I seldom ever sit in front of a tv to see news. Holding a paper is too messy and inconvenient and I don’t like getting toxic ink on my fingers. It costs aboutr 7000% more to distribute news via paper internet..

      Newspaper’s Weaknesses
      •Newspaper is a passive medium.
      •Generally loosing appeals for creating market demand.
      •Visual only. No audio. Limited linking.
      •Not the best medium for building awareness or image-building.
      •No competitive separation. If most tire dealers run in the Sports section, they are all clumped together out of view to readers who don’t read that section.
      •Daily circulations continue to decline because most under 40 years old are prefer electronic news media.
      •Internet has no shelf life. A day old newspaper is yesterday’s news.
      •Not all readers read the entire paper. Many read only certain sections.

      Newspaper Strengths
      •Enables the advertiser to reach mature audiences who are less prone to utilize electronic media.
      •Delivers the ability to saturate a market with a particular ad campaign on a local basis.

      Tried lining a bird cage with the internet?

      2011 is here and Va Pilot still has a weak internet presence.

      1. As I suspected, you’ve formed your opinion of the newspaper based on reading PilotOnline. So you aren’t aware of their reprinting of conservative columnists in the paper. You didn’t see, for example, the Cal Thomas article that appeared alongside my op-ed last week.

        For people like you, the only alternative is a paywall behind which you see the actual newspaper. That is available to you now via ePilot. But I’m guessing that you’d never subscribe to ePilot, because you’ve already formed your opinion as to what the newspaper includes without even seeing it.

        I don’t have an answer for you. I don’t know what the newspaper can do to entice you to read something other than one side of an argument, which is what online content, including the Pilot’s, give you. You get to see my take on McDonnell but not Thomas’.

        Never say never but it is unlikely that you’ll ever see me try to paint an entire group of people based on the actions of the vocal few. I’m more interested in understanding why people think the way they do, so I read and talk to people on all sides of issues.

        At the end of the day, though, I remain convinced that local issues generally don’t have a conservative or liberal stance. And that’s the perspective from which I write.

          1. You can, but that doesn’t mean the others can. So when the argument is that the paper has liberal leanings, it usually comes from those who don’t realize (because they don’t look at the printed paper) that the paper prints the likes of Cal Thomas. Or, like in today’s paper, this article by Charles Krauthammer.

  12. Vivian & All others,

    The Pilot has made bad business decisions. (Sorry Mr. Jones–Hampden Sydney did not impart a smart head for business for you).

    *** The Sports section should go away. ESPN is way better
    *** Whoever decided that the Compass should move to the Sunday paper killed it. Have you noticed that since then it’s less than half the size it was?

    I read the Pilot in this order:

    1) I read my horoscope
    2) I read Dilbert…my sanity for being employed at a corporate workplace
    3) I read the Editorial Page & Hampton Roads section in it’s entirety. On Wednesdays, I read Viv’s column before the letters to the editor. It’s always the mid-week tid bit. ****I miss Louis Guy’s columns.

    On Sunday, same routine, but my favorite is reading Harry Minium’s column in the Compass. He has the pulse of the Mermaid City. Of course, the ads…who has chuck roast for $2.49 a pound.

    Just my two cents,


  13. What the Pilot did to the Sunday comics is unforgivable. Sadly, I have to question if a smaller paper is worth buying except on weekends. The businness model will have to be radicaly changed or perhaps we are looking at the Pilot at some point being swallowed up in a regional format uder the banner of a larger paper like the Washington Post.

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