November 2014
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LeBron and why newspapers will endure

Large as life, the Cleveland Plain Dealer used its front page on Friday to show the world how its community felt about the loss of NBA superstar LeBron James.

That page, and the incredible stories and photos inside Friday’s Plain Dealer, also showed how and why newspapers will endure.

Sure, the Internet chattered day and night. Sure, television went nuts with the lead-up and eventual announcement that LeBron was leaving Cleveland for Miami. I’ve got no quibble with any of that: We put a huge amount of energy into our website, Twitter and Facebook every day, too.

But how long did any of those media endure as the LeBron story unfolded? Seconds? Minutes? An hour?

That one edition of the Plain Dealer and its incredible front page design, though, will be remembered and remarked about for years. Its associated stories and photographs held readers’ attention long after the tweeters moved on to the next big thing. Only in the print edition did Cleveland see and hear the full depth of the story; only there could Cleveland see and hear itself.

And the connection between the Plain Dealer and the community it serves will continue, strong and resilient, no matter the day or the news it brings.

Because newspapers don’t just walk away. Not in Cleveland, Miami or Missoula.

Sherry Devlin

1 comment to On LeBron and why newspapers will endure

  • To be fair, this was not actually the front page of the paper, per se. It was a special wrap. There was a normal front page beneath it.

    Also, I have to note that sales of printed copies of the Plain Dealer for that day were normal, according to editor Susan Goldberg. The paper increased its print run slightly, she told Poynter, but:

    What drivers are hearing from single copy customers is that there are some people who are upset about the decision, some angry about it, and so they are not seeing people buy multiple copies the way you might if he had decided to remain in Cleveland.

    Of significant interest, though, is what Goldberg said about the Plain Dealer’s online coverage of the James affair:

    Where we have seen an amazing readership reaction is online. By nearly every measure, Thursday was the biggest day ever on cleveland.com, our affiliated web site.

    We had the highest one-day count of unique users, the highest one-day count for page views, more people in our live chat than ever before, more people looking at our live video stream than ever before and, in the last 90 days, the Cavs blog had more than four times as many people looking at it compared to the same 90-day period last year.

    So it seems that the Plain Dealer’s readership did not actually buy the paper as a way of remembering the event, at least, not any more than they would have on a normal day. However, the online engagement offered by the news organization gave readers a place to sound off and connect with each other.

    I agree with you, the LeBron James decision does demonstrate that the Plain Dealer will remain an important part of a “strong and resilient” community. Yet we must acknowledge that it was the online side of the paper demonstrably more than the print edition, which enabled that sense of community in this case.

    It is a genius cover though.

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