I really can't do this piece justice with a few excerpts. Do go read the whole thing.
Journalism as we know it is in crisis. Daily newspapers are going out of business at an unprecedented rate, and the survivors are slashing their budgets. Thousands of reporters and editors have lost their jobs. No print publication is immune, including the mighty New York Times. As analyst Allan Mutter noted, 2008 was the worst year in history for newspaper publishers, with shares dropping a stunning 83 percent on average. Newspapers lost $64.5 billion in market value in 12 months.
If newspapers die, so does reporting. That's because the majority of reporting originates at newspapers. Online journalism is essentially parasitic. Like most TV news, it derives or follows up on stories that first appeared in print. Former Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll has estimated that 80 percent of all online news originates in print. As a longtime editor of an online journal who has taken part in hundreds of editorial meetings in which story ideas are generated from pieces that appeared in print, that figure strikes me as low.
There is no substitute for field reporting, in which a real live human being observes an event while it is happening and talks to other real, live human beings.
If field reporting dies out, the world will become a less known place. Vast areas will simply not be covered, and those that are will not be covered from multiple perspectives. Precisely because reporters are imperfect, because they by necessity capture only a fragment of reality, it is essential that numerous firsthand accounts exist.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
The problem with what's happening to newspapers
Please run, don't walk, over to Common Dreams and read the Salon article entitled "The Death of The News". I've been very concerned about this for some time and this article makes me more so. Here are a few snippets: