Sunday, March 29, 2009

Kalb Report: Journalism in Crisis

I went to another Kalb report last Monday. This one was called Down to the Wire: Journalism in Crisis. It focused on the plight of traditional news media these days how it's going to cope with the new technology of the world wide web. An emphasis in the discussion is what is happening with newspapers today. This seemed especially relevant with the demise of the Rocky Mountain News and Seattle Post Intellingencer.

The panelists agreed that single greatest problem was how to generate revenue. The old model of ads supporting a paper no longer will work. It really hasn't for the past few years and with the economy in the dumps newspapers are really feeling a loss in revenue.

As Jon Klein said you have to get over the idea of the old fashioned newspaper. And Alberto Ibarguen added you need to look for a way to deliver content to people for the next 5, 10, 15 years. The consensus being how do you deliver content to everyone's mobile device. And I thought what exactly will that mobile device look like in 15 years which could have a huge impact on how the content is delievered.

They all seemed to think that journalism will come through this fine. That as the economy recovers so will the new business. They really didn't answer at what cost. I think we need to be concerned about newspapers going under. They provide a wide range of news for a specific location. They also provide in depth coverage of issues that you just don't see any where else. I guess the question has to be asked how would the Watergate scandal unfold in today's media age.

Also I worry about, which was touched on at the forum, of people going to sites that only reflect their views. Conservatives to the Drudge Report; liberals to Huffington Post. When do people ever hear opposing views? Most of the time that comes from the main stream news media. Newspapers being an important part of that.

I guess the question to ponder is as the technology allows us to become even more instantly connected to what going on in the world do we become less connected to each other.


Arthur Schenck said...

I'll be honest: I'm getting a little tired of the hand-wringing from journalists, and print journalists in particular. They need to relax!

Way back when, pundits were convinced that radio would kill newspapers. Then it was television. Then it was 24-hour cable news. Newspapers survived all of them and they'll survive for awhile yet—but not as we've known them.

My bet is that the only printed papers that will survive will be small, local and very likely non-profit. To me, it seems inevitable that all big mainstream newspapers—by which I means ink-on-paper newspapers—will be gone sooner rather than later.

What I find incredibly arrogant about this hand-wringing is the apparent belief that ONLY newspaper journalists are real journalists. Some good solid journalism takes place elsewhere, too, like on television and—GASP!—online, and, if we're honest, some very bad journalism gets printed on paper.

I think you touched on what's a very real possibility: That people will only turn to news sources that they agree with. But that happens now, without even turning to the web: For example, a right winger could watch only Faux News and CNBC on cable, read the National Review and listen to any number of far right radio talkshow hosts. For liberals, the non-online choices are far more limited, but they're there, too.

I also think you give too much credit to the mainstream media for presenting opposing views: Look at the lead-up to Bush's Iraq War, when all mainstream news in the US was in lock-step agreement. They don't necessarily present opposing views, although they're far more likely to than some online sites, especially on the far right.

I agree with the panel that journalism will survive, and for the next 5 years definitely (and probably longer), it will be online. Quite how that will work (meaning, be profitable), we don't know yet.

You're absolutely right that what mobile devices are like in 15 years will determine a lot; the kind of mobile technology that journalism can exploit isn't on the market yet—actually, it probably hasn't even been invented yet. Which brings us back to the technology that is here and works: The web.

Traditional journalism won't go away, even if traditional newspapers do. What this new world of connected news delivery will give us is the opportunity to do our own fact-checking in a way that simply wasn't possible (or, at least, easy) before, and that's got to be a good thing for journalism and news consumers alike.

Jason in DC said...

Yes, I agree there is a great deal of arrogance on the part of the main stream media. But I have to say I find the same level of arrogance from those who believe the world wide web is the answer to everything.

Their attitude is if the main stream media went away little if anything would change. Their attitude is it's high time these dinosaurs died off.

They seem to have little or no concern for those people who have limited or no access to a computer. Where exactly are they supposed to get their news? Yes there is local news but it doesn't do the same level of coverage of a local paper.

And I have to say I don't see small local newspapers being able to serve a community like Washington, DC. I also don't see how a non-profit newspaper could possibly take over for a huge metropolitan newspaper. I see a great deal of coverage getting lost.

I also don't see newspapers disappearing as everyone is saying.