Web Design

Who said the internet is killing journalism?

Chris Hedges did.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author, and tech-pessimist, recently gave a lecture at the University of Mississippi about the decline of newspapers. Which, in his view, inevitably leads to the death of journalism, literacy, and even democracy. You can read or watch the lecture on the University’s blog.

Talk about a slippery slope.  Yes, the medium, business model, and definition of “news” is changing rapidly, but I fail to see how this signals the journalistic apocalypse.

Some of his views seem to be based on misconceptions about the internet. Here are a few:

“No internet site will ever bring in the kind of revenue that allows a large newspaper to field a newsroom staff”

I don’t understand why this is an impossibility in his mind.

“The internet is not configured for reading, and like television, it shapes and can distort news content.”

The last time I checked, the web was a pretty good format for reading, and as for distorting news, print media could never do that, right?

“Bloggers, unlike most established reporters, rarely admit errors. They cannot get fired. Facts, for many bloggers, are interchangeable with opinions.”

Seriously? Stereotyping bloggers like this is not only insulting to bloggers and blog readers, but shows a serious lack of faith in people’s ability to distinguish quality content for themselves.

Here’s what I think. Instead of reaching for the panic button, newspapers need to evaluate WHY they’re failing and use their resources to focus on SOLUTIONS. If newspapers don’t, someone else will. High quality journalists will end up working for whoever figures out how to monazite high quality journalism in the new-media age, simple as that. Educated people will always demand quality news.

That said, I think what Hedges is really expressing is a deeper lack of faith in our ability to teach future generations to recognize and value high quality journalism in a world where information is free and opinion runs wild. That aspect is a bit more troubling, but if we are smart, we’ll continue to invest in education and avoid the slide into Idiocracy.

2 replies on “Who said the internet is killing journalism?”

The Internet is not killing journalism. Journalism, in fact, has never been stronger or more vibrant, and the Internet plays a big part of that. The simple truth is that there is a TON invested in the old way of doing things, so much so that even those that recognize what needs to be change don’t have the support/financial backing to make those changes happen and still survive in the short term. And since other news organizations won’t change the way they do business until they see someone ELSE succeed in the new formula, it just feeds back into itself in the most depressing way.

And just to throw this out there, before one makes this inevitable connection…Journalism is NOT equal to newspapers. Yes, newspapers are dying, and the Internet has a lot to do with that, but the Internet is not the CAUSE of this…dumb decisions by top executives are killing newspapers, at least newspapers in a print format. No industry in all of history can stay successful without adjusting its business model to new technology and innovation. What makes newspapers (specifically) or journalism (generally) any different?

I agree that bloggers can be biased, fail to report accurate information, or be completely wrong on facts. However I feel he is missing a major element. The subscribers. They choose which blogs/news sites they read. Obviously they will flock to accurate sites.
While large readership numbers don’t directly relate to subscrition revenues since most sites are free…. revenue can come in other forms such as advertising. While the printed local newspapaer can distribute to the surronding community, the online version can reach around the world. With sucessful data mining advertisments can be crafted to the individual making for a higher hit rate on those advertisements. If the argument is revenue = quality newsroom staff then I think a look at Google is in order who makes most of its revenue off of advertising.
The internet does offer a different business model but it is definetly one that can be profitable.

Comments are closed.