Innovate, die or be sold: �Newspaper Next� director

 If they want to survive and keep fulfilling their civic mission, newspaper companies need to move not just beyond paper, but beyond the news -- and help consumers with all their daily information jobs.


That's roughly the premise of a $2-million newspaper-industry research initiative, of the American Press Institute (API) called "Newspaper Next� and headed by Stephen Gray, managing director.   The initiative, launched last fall, is now helping pilot six initiatives at newspapers around the country and Gray�s talk will be one of the first he�s given describing what�s going on.


Gray will be kickoff presenter at 8:30 a.m. on Thurs., June 29, during, "Democracy & Independence: Sharing News & Politics in a Connected World,� the first roundtable summit and conference on the future of journalism organized by the Media Giraffe Project at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. ( )


Gray says newspapers must focus on the nearly 50% of the American public which does not read a newspaper daily, and on the large number of public-facing businesses that don�t advertise in newspapers. And that will mean, Gray thinks, newspaper owners must become multi-product, multi-platform information-service providers well beyond a traditional definition of news or journalism. They must invest to do this despite the reaction of Wall Street, Gray thinks, because they will otherwise shrink and fail or be sold.


Gray's talk will kick off a full day of sessions on topics such as "Finding a new definition of journalism", "Quality, how do you measure it?", "What the press becomes a pipe, who controls?", "Can free media sustain democracy," and "Can ownership make a difference?"


Gray's newspaper career began as a newsboy at his family's Monroe [Mich.] Evening News (circ. 23,000) extended through the ranks to CEO. In 1995, the family began turning over ownership of the paper to its employees in an innovative Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) buyout completed in 2000. In 1997, he became managing publisher of the Christian Science Monitor, and joined the API Newspaper Next project last year.


While with the Monitor, Gray helped launch numerous new online, syndication, partnership and multi-media strategies reaching millions of new readers, viewers and listeners. He remains vice-chairman of the Monroe Publishing Company board of directors, and he is a former president of Inland Press Association, the Michigan Press Association and the Michigan Associated Press Editorial Association.

Early-bird conference registration is $340, including all meals, until May 29.