You Want Fries With That? Journalism in a Changing World

<This article was written in early September, and I can’t remember why I didn’t publish it then.  Must have had more to say, but I can’t remember it now…>

A look through my archives here will show you that I used to cover a lot of the downward slide of the newspaper industry.  It’s been a long time since I even bothered to write about Journalism and the not-so-slow downward spiral.

This morning a few things sparked my interest.  I picked up a copy of the Worcester Telegram, the rag I used to write for, and I have to admit I was shocked…in the way one is shocked when one sees an old friend riddled with cancer, gaunt, and hollow, and barely clinging on.  The weight of the newsprint, the general thinness, it was the mere shell of my once proud and noble friend.

Then I had my attention drawn to this article from Forbes the other day, in which Jeff Bercovici discusses layoffs from Slate.com the other day.  Normally I don’t even waste my time pontificating on journalism layoffs anymore.  This is different…this is an online flagship dismissing some of their top names.  The statement it makes is truly horrifying…

So I’m bummed about this. And I also found something Shafer said to the Washington Post rationalizing his layoff to be telling. He said:

The Washington Post has done this. The New York Times has done this. It doesn’t necessarily mean a huge, unsolvable crisis. It just means we have to economize. Many publications have to right-size themselves in this current economic environment.

Shafer could just as easily have said “Gawker Media has done this” and that would have been true. But the comparison to newspapers was more apt. With an editorial staff of 40, Slate (which is owned by the Washington Post Co.) is a fraction the size of those papers, but it’s built on the same model: a general-interest publication that tries to hit all the news people are interested in every day.

The thing is, this isn’t a boring broadsheet laying off, it’s an online property, the kind that were supposed to be eating the lunch of the newspapers, magazines and any old media that happened to get in their way.

We’re proving that online doesn’t exactly pay either.  If Slate.com can’t make quality journalism pay, then who can?

Have we conditioned readers to expect free content at the expense of quality journalism?  I hate to think so, but the case is clear.

 

One Reply to “You Want Fries With That? Journalism in a Changing World”

  1. The answer to your last Question is “Yes” and “For the short term.”

    Media is deeply engrained into our culture and our lives. As a result any change will come with great opposition. As both young people and educated early adopters forge forward finding their news from less regulated and less filtered sources (sometimes less reliable also), the older less tech savvy people will stick with traditional media. As this trend shifts changes will result. The Internet did this major shift with the music industry and it will do the same disruption to the news, book, and movie industry. We have a long way to go before the old models die and new models fall into place. Newspapers, Magazines and other forms of traditional media will die out or become something completely different as a result of the advent of the Internet, much like radio changed as a result of TV. I feel the Internet leveled the playing field and lowered the barrier of entry for news sources and it was the fault of old media that they refused to adapt to changing forces and give customers what they want. Compitition is strong and this new medium promotes competition. We will lose quality journalism in the short term but this will not last long. The shift online is underway and as soon as advertisers and older less savvy people jump on board the quality journalism will follow.

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