There Will Always Be Journalism

As far as newspapers are concerned, all of the news is not horrible, although you would certainly think so from MediaBistro’s headlines. Or from the second quarter circulation numbers, in which only the Wall Street Journal rose by the tiniest bit, says Crain’s . But in the third quarter of ’09, 74 million people visited some kind of newspaper site, which is an 8.5% more than last year (when there was a big election going on). So there’s a lot of traffic, but it’s all revenue-free. And, according to the Newspaper Association of America, online ad revenue has dropped for six straight quarters, even as the audience size grows.  Which highlights the lack of a plan by most news organizations to monetize their sites.  However, despite the mess that newspapers are in, there is still, and probably always will be, in some form or another, journalism.  A special report in Editor and Publisher spoke with several editors and academicians, who seemed to agree that “Cutting back investment in the newsroom just 1% is three times worse than the same percentage cut in circulation or distribution, and seven times worse than making that cut in ad salespeople. The deeper the newsroom cut, the worse the damage”.  In other words, if there is no good product, nobody will read it.  No matter where it’s published.  So cuts should certainly take place, but as the exec director of the International newsmedia Marketing Association says ,  cut “[b]ig printing monstrosities, preservation of departmental silos, payouts of enormous dividends, and the pursuit of large advertisers at the expense of the small.” Rather, they should spend on marketing and research – of course he would say this.

I took a workshop in Boston last weekend with a recently ex-journalist from the Boston Globe (now a tenured professor – and isn’t that a leap some people would like to make?) who emphasized that despite the change in focus from the authoritative voice of journalists to the opinionated voice of commentators – particularly on television – there will always be a need for journalists.  It will not be the way it was, though, and getting paid will be a problem, but the need will always be there.  In fact, I would be willing to assume that those with journalism in their soul will always need to report, and to produce quality pieces. However, newspapers are trying to put their talent all over the place, requiring journalists to be bloggers as well.  I asked whether he thought that blogging diluted the journalistic authority, and he said, “Absolutely”.

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