Digitally-oriented media mogul John Paton got a nice fat profile in the LA Times over the weekend, courtesy of James Rainey. Paton is the CEO of Digital First Media, the Journal Register Company and Media News–and oversees the Daily News, Pasadena Star-News, Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Daily Breeze, among a few hundred other papers and media outlets across the country. Paton is a one-time copy boy for the Toronto Sun, who has made it big as a media executive by pushing his newspapers to embrace digital journalism–and pushing hard.
Paton and his Digital First Media — a management company established four months ago that now oversees the recently bankrupt Journal Register and MediaNews chains — have put a 21st century spin on “Stop the presses!” Reporters post video before writing news stories, tweet to their readers in search of news tips and invite customers into news meetings to help mull story choices.
Ad reps had better be pushing Facebook placements, email blasts and online video ads. Paton’s mantra: “Stack digital dimes to match print dollars.”
The roundish chief executive with the insouciant Sydney Greenstreet affect displays a notable lack of sentimentality for parts of his lifelong trade. He has said that traditional print journalism has a value of “about zero,” urged that newspaper people stop listening to other newspaper people, and stated that the public “knows more than we do” about their towns.
Paton later qualifies those statements by arguing that newspapers are no longer fit for breaking news, when stories can be posted on the web at a moment’s notice. Which is true. But he never disputes the notion that John Q. Public somehow knows more about their town than reporters do. We’d encourage Paton to take a stroll around LA and ask people on the street if they can name all the city council members. Or even their own city council member.
The newspaper business model may be collapsing. And traditional journalistic jobs may no longer be cost efficient. But that doesn’t mean they’re without value. Traditional print stories may no longer be financially viable, but–more often than not–they do serve a social function. Attracting eyeballs with videos and slideshows isn’t going to fill that information gap.