Nikos Konstandaras at PostGlobal

Nikos Konstandaras

Athens, Greece

Nikos Konstandaras is managing editor and a columnist of Kathimerini, the leading Greek morning daily. He is also the founding editor of Kathimerini’s English Edition, which is published as a supplement to The International Herald Tribune in Greece, Cyprus and Albania. He worked as a correspondent for The Associated Press from 1989 to 1997 before joining the Greek press and has reported from many countries in the region. Close.

Nikos Konstandaras

Athens, Greece

Nikos Konstandaras is managing editor and a columnist of Kathimerini, the leading Greek morning daily. He is also the founding editor of Kathimerini’s English Edition, which is published as a supplement to The International Herald Tribune in Greece, Cyprus and Albania. more »

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Newspapers' Paperless Future

The Current Discussion: American newspapers are in dire financial straits. How are newspapers faring where you are? Are you concerned about the future of journalism in America or in your own country? What does that future look like?

It appears almost certain that paper will not figure in the future of newspapers. The logic is indisputable: newspapers are hugely expensive, demanding great investment in editorial salaries and services, printing plants and distribution networks; their revenues come from sales (newsstands and subscriptions), advertising and support/subsidies from various other sources, whether private or public. If newspapers go electronic, only the editorial costs need be maintained, with production and distribution costs disappearing overnight; this need not disrupt any of the revenue sources, although so far these are much smaller with regard to print editions' sliding revenues.

So the future is electronic. But we already have newspapers online, both as partners to print editions and flying solo. And yet it is difficult to guess what the future will look like, because the news industry finds itself in a fog of developments that do not allow anyone to know what obstacles still lie ahead and what we will see on the horizon - and when. The fog is made up of the huge variety of news sites on the Internet today and the factors that will influence the direction in which they will go. So the best we can do is make educated guesses.

Here's mine. I believe that we already have a pretty good idea of what "newspapers" will look like when they are exclusively electronic: we see them every day in a variety of forms on the Internet. We will know for sure only when those that cannot adapt successfully are out of the way, exhausted by a lack of revenues, leaving fewer news sites to forge a more lasting relationship with readers and advertisers.

As a reader, I am hooked on newspapers as they are today. I make frequent visits during the day to the newspaper sites that I like and trust and feel that I am part of their communities. Whatever print editions I can get my hands on, I take home with me at the end of the day for a fuller appreciation of the editors' and designers' work. This is a little like wearing hand-crafted shoes at home after a day of wearing mass produced sneakers: the paper edition is a luxury, the electronic one a necessity. So if an electronic paper can give me a design and content that are tailored to my preferences but still surprise me with unexpected story content, or a video or photo of something I never knew I wanted to see - and if I can get this on a screen that is easy to read and does not tie me to a computer - then I will gradually stop making the effort to get my hands on paper.

This site will have to give me everything that an electronic edition can give, ruling out the need for me to go anywhere else except for the most specialized information. This means I should be able to get the best news and analysis very quickly, with news alerts followed by longer stories as a story develops. It should include all necessary information regarding traffic, transport and weather, as well as that day's arts and entertainment with trailers and ticket booking capabilities, and comics and columns. Readers should also be able to send information and comments that will inform other citizens/journalists of something that is happening so that they can adjust their own days accordingly - whether this involves avoiding a traffic jam or learning that a metro station is suddenly closed. I should be able to choose a short story or consult an encyclopedia. And I should be able to listen to my newspaper when I am driving or want to close my eyes. My new newspaper should be my "home" page in every way.

All of these things already exist; what does not is the combination of them.

But it is not enough that a newspaper should have all these things. To be a community greater than the sum of its parts, it has to have a critical mass of readers who feel that they need this particular paper, who can identify with it, who feel that this paper represents them and that, when necessary, their voice will be heard through this particular channel. It needs to be an authoritative brand.

That is why newspapers will survive as organizations that gather news and look for the best ways to serve their readers. The multitude of single voices on the Internet may be a sign of the infinite sources of news and opinion in our age - but without newspapers it is a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I hope I don't sound too pedantic when I say that I believe society needs journalists now more than ever, to make sense of the chaos and to try present the bigger picture in a constantly fracturing world. People need to know where their lives are going and they need people who specialize in analyzing reality. Once upon a time, shamans and soothsayers and astrologers and priests were entrusted with trying to make sense of the universe for others. Journalists obviously should make no pretense at any special knowledge, but, as people who spend their lives looking around and listening to others in an effort to understand what is happening, they should be both proud of their responsibility and humbled by the trust of their readers. They must go out and root out the meaning of things and create a daily report that serves the society that they have the privilege of representing.

This is a wonderful time to be a reader and a wonderful time to be a journalist. Because today the two - journalist and reader - are closer than ever, with almost no need for middlemen, whether they be publishers with the money to run printing presses or newspaper vendors. And the future of newspapers passes through them - through journalists planning and providing the news that readers need to use. When readers are convinced of this need, they will pay for the newspapers that will empower them and give them all they need to be well-informed and active citizens. Advertisers will follow. The need for news will guide the way.

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