Journalism Then, Now, Later

Wednesday, 23 September 2009, 21:24 | Category : Life
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I read an article today in the Chronicle of Higher Education that talked about how the nation’s journalism schools are filled to overflowing this year, even as journalism jobs are disappearing in droves. As I read the article, I thought about a report I heard recently – maybe on BBC World Service (to which I listen more frequently than I would like, since I catch it while lying awake in the middle of the night) – about the reductions in staff at many press bureaus around the world. Where once there might have been a dozen journalists and photographers in a bureau, now there might be three “photojournalists”. Freelance journalists are filling the gap, and while there have always been freelancers, it seems that they are providing more and more of the stories now. And where once freelance journalists were a definite professional class, “citizen journalists” are beginning to move up to the ranks of the professionals. I suspect this is not so much because they are producing quality work as it is inexpensive work. It’s true that the world of journalism is changing, due mainly to the dramatic rise of internet and other electronic technologies, but if the big media companies can’t find a way to make money again, we’ll all lose. There was great value for us, the reading, watching, and listening public, in the ability of newspapers, magazines, and television and radio networks to throw large amounts of talented resources at stories and investigations. Now journalism has to reinvent itself in an age of blogs, Facebook, and twitter – along with whatever comes after these. With everyone expecting content for free, where will the revenue come from to support the quality content we’ve had for so many years? And what will that content look like in five years, or ten? How will it be delivered? Will journalism be delivered in hundred-word paragraphs, like the thirty-second candidate spots that seem to define our political campaigns now? Thomas Jefferson said “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty”. If that is true, we should be incredibly nervous about the state of journalism today.

One Comment for “Journalism Then, Now, Later”

  1. 1Berial

    I don’t disagree that ‘losing the news’ is a bad thing, however, at this point it is most likely inevitable.

    The corporate world ate up all the prominent newspapers, until all of them are owned by a small number of interests. As corporations do, they didn’t care about their ‘news’ so much as their revenues. They cut everything down to the bare bones required to make a product and maximize profits. This is what corporations are supposed to do. Capitalism. However, because all the voices out there are doing the same thing it all ends up the same. If something is unique, if some paper comes to prominence BECAUSE it is different it is bought by a corporation for it’s value and then loses that value as it becomes just another corporate voice.

    How much ‘news’ do we actually get for our buck twenty-five these days? How much opinion? How much of it is the exact same from paper to paper, talking head to talking head. How many voices do we really need if they are all going to say basically the same thing? Newspapers are going to have to go back to their roots to find a way to make money. LOCAL NEWS. I can spend 20 seconds at Google or Bing and know pretty much all the news I’m going to see on national news outlets, but I’m not going to see much about my locality there.

    And as for Television ‘news’, I’m not sure you can even call most of it that anymore. Infotainment is about the closest any of it comes. Ever since CNN decided that money can be made from 24 hour coverage, corporations have found more and more ways to give get ‘eyeballs’ for sale to their advertisers. And ‘eyeballs’ don’t look at you if you are just telling the facts of some deep problem. No you get more people watching when you put up a traffic chase than going over what the latest piece of legislation being discussed in the House of Representatives is going to do to your liberties/taxes/lifestyle. Then as you give more and more car chases and burning buildings, somewhere along the line people realize that they can see even MORE exciting stuff on a made up show than this ‘news’ you keep showing them and it’s about the same about of interest to them because you are no longer really giving them news but entertainment and you have a LOT of better places to be entertained.

    Sad but it’s what we have to work with.

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