As a newspaper journalist my heart races in dread every time I read a piece on newspaper decline and another round of job cuts (and these alerts come at me every day from all the range of sources I read).
So it was refreshingly heartening to read about the start-up of a new website that tries to dispel concerns about the crisis of newspapers that it’s dying.
news.newspaperproject.org, of course another US -run site, has been developed by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.’s publisher Donna Barrett, Brian Tierney, publisher and CEO of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News; Randy Siegel, president and publisher of Parade Publications, and Jay Smith, former president of Cox Newspapers.
The website, which discusses the future of newspapers, will probably be used in the end as a form of research marketing tool, but I say bring it on as long as it saves my preferred media medium.
The latest piece from the New York Times Executive Editor looks at the demise of quality journalism, and the growing demand for it, which in turn could explain the dwindling popularity and respect for journalists. By quality journalism he means the kind that involves experienced reporters going places, bearing witness, digging into records, developing sources, checking and double-checking, backed by editors who try to enforce high standards.
The supply of this kind of journalism is declining because it is hard, expensive, sometimes dangerous work. The traditional practitioners of this craft — mainly newspapers — have been downsizing or declaring bankruptcy. The wonderful florescence of communication ignited by the Internet contains countless voices riffing on the journalism of others but not so many that do serious reporting of their own. Hence the dwindling supply.
I have previously lamented the little support journalists had from editors, publishers, owners and in a way from the public itself in giving us the tools to be exemplary investigative reporters digging away to uncover the truth.
Look at the uproar The Times caused in the House of Lords by uncovering that Lords could be bought! This was a beautiful piece of journalism – the digging, following through in a project that took a year to materialise, debate within the House of Commons.
Barrett says that the group’s message is simple; that newspaper readership is in fact growing when you take into account combined print and online audience, that newspapers have the public trust in terms of truth and accuracy, that advertisers still invest in newspapers because of their guaranteed results and that as watchdogs against crime and corruption newspapers form an essential part of the democratic system.
However, there are some fatal flaws in this argument. Combining print and on-line readership undoubtedly shows an increase, but this does nothing to counter the most common argument that it is print which is suffering at the expense of its online rival. Moreover, whilst advertisers are still continuing to invest there is no denying the fact that there has been a steep drop in advertising revenue this year, as Reuters’ Robert Macmillan points out.
The bottom line is: we need a bit of good news in these hardening times when the number of journalism jobs are steadily decreasing never mind talking about the quality of the paper. We must not forget, or ignore the declining downward trend of the newspaper but it is heartening to hear the executives with some clout in the field are looking at smallest ray of sunshine and trying to bring back those sunny days.
P.S. Hope they are having the same conversation in Britain, otherwise I predict a typical US-bound brain drain.