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John Oliver Journalism Print

Newspaper Association launches flaccid defence of local journalism attacking John Oliver who 'doesn't offer any answers'


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

August 9, 2016 | 4 min read

The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) has lashed out at late night TV host John Oliver after he aired an informative segment discussing the state of local US journalism and the ineffectiveness of the strategies currently in place.

John Oliver

John Oliver skewers local journalism

During 'Last Week Tonight' Oliver discussed the pressures of maintaining high quality reporting in ever more volatile conditions that increasingly sees more reporters having to carry the pressure as print ad revenues continue to decline.

David Chavern, president and chief executive of the NAA published an open letter entitled ‘Newspapers need solutions, not petting insults and stating the obvious’ retorting Oliver’s segment that stressed the importance of an effective free press.

Oliver said "media is a food chain that would fall apart without local newspapers," in response to reports that the trade is slowly seceding to cost cuts. He added that some people in local papers continued to produce good work "despite their current conditions".

In response, Chavern said: "Other than encouraging people to 'pay for' more news, he doesn't offer any answers. More particularly, he spends most of the piece making fun of publishers who are just trying to figure it out. Whatever you think of the name 'tronc' and that company's announced growth strategy, at least they are trying new things and trying to figure out how to create great news journalism in the digital era. John Oliver doesn't seem to have any better ideas.

"The fact is that we are in a transitional phase within the entire industry. People want, need and consume more hard news than they ever have. The core demand for the product isn't decreasing at all, and based upon that we will find our way to the far shore where the industry is thriving and growing once again. But in the meantime, there is going to be a lot of experimentation and evaluation of new business models."

The NAA is a non-profit group representing 2,000 newspapers across the US and Canada but executive editor of the Washington Post Marty Baron was among many who urged people to watch the Oliver segment - he dubbed the NAA ‘clueless’.

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