The future of news will still be news at the Daily Herald

  • Colin O'Donnell

    Colin O'Donnell

By Colin O’Donnell, Senior Vice President/Director of Content and Strategic Planning
Posted10/7/2013 6:25 AM

Editor's note: This article is part of a special series celebrating National Newspaper Week Oct. 6-12. The Week was designated in 1940 as a way to recognize the importance of newspapers to their communities.

This week we celebrate the Daily Herald's connection to our readers and the suburbs. As a lifelong resident, I know that connection is as strong today as it was 30 years ago when I started working for my hometown newspaper.


How do I know? Because people tell me both as part of my job and as part of my everyday life outside my job. Whether it was the Prospect High School friends I reconnected with at our recent reunion, or the runners I see each week on the paths in DuPage County, I'm reminded that the Daily Herald touches people in all sorts of ways.

Many times, I'm told about how the printed newspaper -- over a cup of coffee -- is still a preferred way of digesting the day's news.

But I'm also told about how easy it is to watch highlights of prep games on our high school football website or how the Daily Herald on any platform is still the best place to find community news.

And that's how we've managed to weather a very challenging period for newspaper companies and how we will continue well into the future.

While some observers have proclaimed newspapers dead -- print or otherwise -- we believe the opposite. And, more and more, others believe this as well. The CEO of The New York Times, for example, recently touted print as "a platform which has shown its resilience with consumers." Warren Buffett thinks so strongly of newspapers that his company has bought or invested in several in the last couple years.

But longevity doesn't happen by being complacent. Nor does it happen by burying our head in the sand. Clearly, people consume their news in vastly different ways today than even two years ago. A Pew Research study on the state of the news media in 2013 reported that 31 percent of adults owned a tablet computer as of 2013, almost four times the share recorded in May 2011. Even more people own web-enabled smartphones. And a majority of those who own tablet and smartphones use them to access news.

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As the technology landscape changes, so must we change, by being nimble and innovative. At a recent production conference, a newspaper executive from Minnesota remarked that they keep an eye on what we are doing because we are innovative, leaders in our market and unafraid to change.

How does that play out? One is our focus on engagement journalism, a concept that has grown tremendously in just the last two years.

By combining our solid community journalism with events that our readers not only enjoy but participate in (Fittest Loser, Cook of the Week and Suburban Chicago's Got Talent, to name just a few) we connect print and digital along with the face-to-face interaction that tells our readers and advertisers that we too have a stake in the success of the community.

This year, we launched a new replica edition of the print product, available on your PC, tablet or smartphone. We updated all of our digital applications. And we introduced a new look to our prep football site making it easier to read on all mobile platforms.

We know we must continually adjust to an ever-changing news and technology landscape. That has been our hallmark over the years and will continue to guide us into the future. What can't change and won't change is our commitment to local news and to you, our loyal readers.

• Colin O'Donnell joined the Daily Herald in 1983, moving up from a city reporter to a variety of newsroom management positions to his current corporate position. He grew up in Mount Prospect and has been a Naperville resident for more than 20 years.

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