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July 24, 2013, 2:33 p.m.
LINK: www.cjr.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Caroline O'Donovan   |   July 24, 2013

CJR has an interesting and lengthy Q&A today with James O’Shea, the former editor at the Chicago Tribune, L.A. Times, and Chicago News Cooperative. He talks about strategic decisions he made, and how companies like The Washington Post Co. made the tough decisions that saved them.

“All a news organization has got is credibility,” O’Shea says — but he comes across as someone with a pretty good sense of how to make the most of the other, lesser assets a newspaper company might have.

I can’t say there’s one solution for all [newspapers]. I believe that the future of the newspapers is in becoming content companies. The fundamental value of a news organization is the ability to generate content, and the companies that win and survive are going to be those that invest in their ability to provide content. Tribune, however, has disinvested in content, by cutting the editorial staffs. Looking forward, I think each market you have to look at individually. In L.A., I would look at making the Times a state newspaper. By covering California aggressively, you’re in effect a national newspaper, because California is bigger than most nations. If I were in Chicago and Florida, I would do the same thing and make it regional. if I were in some of these smaller markets, like Hartford, you then want to look at if I can create an online operation with a weekly magazine, and evolve into that over the next five to seven years, because printing the paper is the real cost, and papers often have limited other options for savings. As you saw in New Orleans when that happens, it can blow up in your face too if you don’t handle it right.

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