Murdoch sees new frontier for papers

November 16, 2008

, SYDNEY, November 16 – Rupert Murdoch on Sunday dismissed the suggestion that newspapers are a dying breed, but the global medial mogul said the ideas of some editors and journalists were obsolete in the digital age.

The Australian-born Murdoch, whose News Corp empire includes The Times in Britain and the Wall Street Journal, said media companies, like other businesses, faced new competition from the Internet.

But while other industries saw the web as a potential boon, "among our journalistic friends are some misguided cynics who are too busy writing their own obituary to be excited by the opportunity."

"Unlike the doom-and-gloomers, I believe that newspapers will reach new heights," Murdoch said in an address carried by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The veteran newsman said that people were hungrier for information than ever before, and that newspapers could provide a trusted source of information amid the clatter of competing voices.

"The newspaper, or a very close electronic cousin, will always be around," he said.

But Murdoch, whose publications extend from Australia and the Pacific to Britain and the US and who also controls the Fox News Channel in the US, said too many in the industry saw the business as one of only physical newspapers.

"I like the look and feel of newsprint as much as anyone. But our real business isn’t printing on dead trees. It’s giving our readers great journalism and great judgement," he said.

Murdoch said that while the printed versions of some newspapers will lose circulation, there would be gains in other areas such as web sites and emails delivering customised news and advertising.

"In this coming century, the form of delivery may change, but the potential audience for our content will multiply many times over," he said.

Murdoch, who was 22 when he inherited his first paper in Australia, acknowledged that traditional sources of revenue such as classified adverts were drying up, but refused to accept that papers would die.

"It’s not newspapers that might become obsolete. It’s some of the editors, reporters, and proprietors who are forgetting a newspaper’s most precious asset — the bond with its readers," he said.

He said the two most serious challenges facing newspapers were competition from new technology and "the complacency and condescension that festers at the heart of some newsrooms."

"It used to be that a handful of editors could decide what was news — and what was not," he said. "They acted as sort of demigods. If they ran a story, it became news. If they ignored an event, it never happened. Today editors are losing this power."

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