Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What Will Happen When All Newspapers Die?

The fact that print journalism is dying is not news anymore. People read less, look at pictures more, love listicles, and rattle off witticisms online as soon they pop into their heads. News executives are talking about "engagement" and "metrics", using staff to create advertorials, and redesigning their websites to remain relevant. The only question is: how will these changes affect what we know about the world?

For starters, we'll be far less informed. Aside from crime, sports events, and "who wore it best?" polls, news is still broken mostly by reporters at local newspapers and wire services. And it is often these reporters that supply the material for the more popular media. (For a funny example, just check out this clip with news reports about Mike Myers' new baby. Could they all have the same news writer on staff?)

survey this year by the Pew Research Center found that 31 percent of adults have deserted a news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information they want. Of those deserters, more than 60 percent said less complete stories were the most noticeable change in news today. The reason is simple: reporting actually does require skill and talent. Staff writers at a daily paper have to quickly find news to report and figure out how they will complete their stories in only a few hours. They have to interview both sides in a dispute, and present each of the perspectives accurately and fairly. And on tight daily deadlines, they have to distill the most important facts and quotes into a tight and compelling narrative that will both inform readers and keep their attention.

Don't get me wrong: citizen journalism, crowdsourcing, and social listening have enhanced journalism, providing reporters with a faster and far richer view of what readers think and feel. But given a choice of a one-sided rant and shaky cell phone video, or a short and structured story that represents all sides, what would most people pick? I would think the latter. There is simply no amount of packaging and marketing that can replace the value of old-fashioned reporting.

No comments:

Post a Comment