Thursday, February 5, 2009

As Count Floyd Would Say... "Scareeey, Kids"!

It IS scary out here in the world of wanna-be-a-journalist-again! Retired (bought out) Washington Post editor Leonard Downie told an interviewer in this blog that things in the newspaper biz are just as bad as they are in radio...

He called the newsprint business "a cartel more efficient than the oil cartel," said there are newspaper companies that will disappear, leaving several cities without papers "this year" and that the newspaper business is "on its knees", unclear "whether or not it's going to continue" (but the Post will, maybe because they have a non-journalism business, Kaplan, that's making money.)

This establishment press Brahmin also believes "anyone can be a journalist" and compares bloggers with the printers in the American colonies, "providing journalism that's sometimes reliable, sometimes not. They're the original bloggers." But he doesn't like the phrase "citizen journalism." He thinks it's just one of those "faddish phrases" from the web world.

We are a "hide-bound, tradition-oriented profession," says the guy whose newspaper is a big part of that tradition. "We have to open ourselves up to all the possibilities, or we're going to die."

Len is spending the next year on a mission from Columbia University "to see if there are any models that look promising" in terms of paying and supporting a future for journalism. "Right now I just don't know."

My good friend and millennial, Jen Richer, is a cockeyed optimist. She sees a world where journalism does have a future... that the cream of the current crop of bloggers and hanging-on traditional journalists will rise from the ashes and form the next wave of journalism. Jen may very well be right about this, because frankly, her brain is wired for this coming generation, and frankly because she's spent much more time thinking about it than I have!

To me, I worry that opening the world to let everyone be "citizen" journalists through blogging means that no one is really a journalist. I'll admit that I don't know what the "next" business model will look like, but I'm still convinced that with so many bloggers in the work force competing for the same opportunities, salaries for journalists are going to plummet - and so is the quality of journalism.

Here's hoping Len Downie does find a workable, profitable model for journalism out there - one that pays a livable wage!


Julie Matthews said...

I predict a backlash. Something dramatic will happen that shows the world the dire need for traditional, professional journalism; indeed, it is crucial for a free America.

The challenge for journalism is in the form, not the message. The medium might change, but the need to trustworthy, up-to-the-moment accurate information never dies.

Persevere, brother.

Jen Richer said...

Julie you are absolutely right! It is the medium that is changing, not the need for sound, accountable journalism. Bloggers are the modern day stringers, but when this all shakes out journalists will need to be more flexible in their medium, but never obsolete.

John Matthews said...

I don't disagree with either of you. I just worry where the economic engine to fund these journalists' livelihoods is going to come from.

Thanks for readin and commentin!