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A little paper that made a big splash

Lisa Rowan, a reporter for inVocus, a blog on media trends, called the other day to talk about the demise of my first newspaper, the Boca Raton News. I wrote about its closing in a previous post.

Lisa was most interested about the 25/43 Project, an experiment meant to determine how journalists and their newspapers could connect to readers ages 25-43, the Baby Boomers. Knight Ridder owned the Boca News and paid to bring top-notch talent and thinkers to the paper, which became part think-tank and part lab rat. It was a pleasure to be part of the effort, largely because we were thinking about innovative ways to bring people information that mattered to them.

As Lisa writes in this blog post, some questioned the approach. It was somewhat controversial, and it remains so today.

But many of us took what we learned about connecting with readers and took those lessons with us as we dispersed to other papers. The ramifications of this work extended well beyond the few who had firsthand experience with it. Newspapers across the country made changes linked to the Boca experiment.

I went to the Akron Beacon Journal, where I was fortunate to work with some top-notch journalists who also were trying new ways to connect with readers. Eventually, we collaborated on a project that won a Pulitzer for public service, which Lisa graciously mentions.

Even in the late 80s and early 90s, during the experiment, newspapers were aware they were in trouble. It’s too bad more experiments didn’t help stem that momentum.

Reading the inVocus post reminded me of how important that effort was. And how important are the renewed efforts to revamp newspaper journalism into a more vibrant, profitable product.

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