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Media Professionals Share Why Pay-to-Read Journalism Works  

Paul Fitchenbaum, Dana O'Neil, and BJ SchecterOn April 12, 2018, students, alumni and friends of the College of Communication and the Arts gathered together to discuss the evolving model of subscription-based journalism during "The Athletic and the Future of Media: The New Model for Sports Coverage." This was the second of three panel discussions in the College's exclusive roundtable series on leading topics in sports today.

Two members of The Athletic, a subscription-based sports journalism website, explored why their pay-to-read model works. The Athletic specifically does not have advertisements. Instead, readers pay a monthly fee for which they receive all-access content for all of their sports interests.

Paul Fichtenbaum, chief content officer, and Dana O'Neil, senior writer, shared their thoughts on how subscription-based journalism revolutionizes journalists' relationships with their audience by focusing on producing a holistic, reading experience through quality writing. Moderated by B.J. Schecter, Professional-in-Residence in the College of Communication and the Arts, the panel explored how students should think about the industry from the best in the business.

"We deeply believe that journalism is worth paying for. If you give people something of value, they will pay for it," said Fichtenbaum. "The Athletic produces stories that are unique and different – it crafts pieces from unexpected angles and contexts, focusing on building a community around our readers."

The panelists opened the discussion by emphasizing why the subscription-based model works so well: it brings journalism back to its basics allowing reporters to focus on story-telling. Readers expect journalists to deliver good content which in turn, pushes journalists to write good stories that people will read as compared to "clickbait."

"Journalists shouldn't be slaves to the metrics. We need find good stories beyond the surface – people already know the basics. It's my job to explain why something happened or what it means for the future," said O'Neil. "Don't tell them what they already know. If you see a pack of people talking to players, turn around and find the better story."

While finding a different perspective isn't always easy, Fichtenbaum continually referred to a relationship between reporters and readers – one that is rooted in an experience that culminates in beautiful, deep and unique pieces of writing. "You need to give the audience what they deserve… and evolve as the industry changes," said O'Neil.

Together, the panelists closed the discussion by offering first-hand advice for aspiring writers and students: 

  • "Write every day. Create a living, breathing resume showcasing your talent. Be a good reporter, make yourself known, and understand how you can add value to an organization," shared Fichtenbaum. 
  • "Get involved, even if it's with a small newspaper or publication. You learn the job by getting your feet dirty and learning it in practice. Be aggressive and don't be afraid to ask for help," shared O'Neil.

Following the panel, Schecter moderated an interactive Q&A discussion with the audience.

The final session in the Sports Media Roundtable series, Investigative Journalism: Earning Trust and Creating Complex Stories, will feature award-winning author Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian of 60 Minutes. Benedict and Keteyian will be on campus to discuss strategies for developing high-quality investigative pieces in light of their recently published biography on golf giant, Tiger Woods. Exact date and details of this Fall 2018 event will be published as they become available.

For more about Sports Media in the College of Communication and the Arts, contact Associate Dean Thomas Rondinella.

Categories: Campus Life


Flickr Sports Media Roundtable Series: The Athletic and the Future of Media

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View the Full Set on Flickr »

For more information, please contact:

  • Danielle Clements
  • (973) 275-4831
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