For Newspapers to Succeed, They Just Have to Do Everything Backwards

Journalist, CUNY professor and media blogger Jeff Jarvis offers an interesting proposal for newspapers: Strike everything, and reverse it.

By putting print at the end of the line, production for paper won’t dictate the rest of the line. So now a reporter can start blogging at the beginning of a story. And that makes a profound shift in the culture of news: it opens up the process to the public.


Content can come to a print editor — who is now, remember, at the end of the line — to fill the paper (which my friend and fellow JRC advisor Jay Rosen points out, is the most expensive space). The readers can even help the editor decide what deserves ink.

Jarvis says that this transparency would allow journalists to accommodate reader feedback and suggestions as they work, ultimately creating stories that are of greater interest to readers and (we hope) represent better journalism.

Jarvis says the idea came to him thanks to a conversation with Journal Register CEO John Paton, a man who’s taken a somewhat militant attitude toward digitizing his newspapers (he has outfitted nearly everyone at the Journal-Register Co. with flip cams, and even has a blog). “All this is why I’m delighting in advising JRC and Paton,” says Jarvis.

Digital first, print last. Makes sense from a symbolic, zeitgeisty standpoint as well as from a practical one.

We like the idea of a friendly, engaged community helping journalists along the way. But, a newsroom that shows its inner workings has a whole new set of transparency issues to tackle. Just ask New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt.