Newspapers won't die but must change, says News Ltd's Hartigan

Dismissing talk of the demise of newspapers in the face of dwindling ads and intense competition from the electronic media, John Hartigan, chairman and chief executive of News Limited, on Tuesday told the National Press Club in Canberra that newspapers had a vibrant future.

Hartigan is the head of media baron Rupert Murdoch's Australian operations. News Limited is Australia's largest newspaper company, with The Daily Telegraph and The Australian among its publications.

Hartigan, however, was clear that newspapers must evolve to face the onslaught from the digital media. To survive the internet age, newspapers had to concentrate less on the ''politics of politics'', which bored people, he said.

In a wide-ranging speech, Hartigan said newspapers would have to change to survive the internet age. He suggested moving reporters out of the Canberra Press Gallery, where they became captive to bureaucrats, politicians and spin doctors. "I think reporters need to get out to understand what people in the big cities see as the issues," he said.

Hartigan also said newspapers must deliver more relevant stories written by highly qualified, specialist writers. "People will pay for it if it is good enough. People will pay if it is original, exclusive, has authority and is relevant to our audiences. The journalism that will thrive is the journalism that helps people find what they want to know and helps them do something about it," he said.

Hartigan predicted newsrooms would need to hire more specialist writers. "Knowing a little about a lot used to be OK in journalism," he said. "Not any more. I think we are going to see an upsurge in recruitment of highly educated people with specialist knowledge to fill our newsrooms."