Tempered optimism might be the best description of the three-person panel that addressed the future of news and kicked-off the annual gathering of the Associated Press Media Editors at the Embassy Suites Denver – Downtown Convention Center Wednesday afternoon.
Future being the key word.
AMPE President Hollis Towns moderated a lively discussion headlined by Dean Singleton, Chairman and CEO of the Denver-based MediaNews Group.
From the confines of a motorized scooter, Singleton assured mostly veteran newspaper professionals of the timeless nature of news.
"News is every bit as important—if not more important—to society and our communities than it has ever been," he said. "The credibility that your newspapers have is one of your greatest assets. It is also one of your greatest responsibilities."
At the same time, Singleton acknowledged that news transmission is changing and that the transition has been "very, very painful."
His statements come less than a week after engineering a transition within his own company. John Paton—by all accounts a more digitally-focused leader—was named the new Chief Executive of MediaNews effective September 7. Singleton didn't address the situation directly but gave his thoughts on the future of legacy media in broader strokes.
"We now find ourselves in a position where we must find an economic business model to operate within the new economic rules," he said. "It's the new reality and it will continue to evolve."
While the theme of his talk was transition, Singleton was quick to guard against complete abandonment of the print product.
"That day certainly may come," he said. "I just don't see it anytime soon. The reader demand is still there. The advertiser demand is still there. Both of them are slipping, certainly. But there is still high demand."
It is evident, however that Singleton is a realist and a businessman.
"We are going to have to have digital to keep of our viability. As digital becomes a bigger part of our lives, more and more of our consumers are going to be looking at digital first."
"I think there is a very exciting future for our business," he said. "It's a different future."