No Paper for Old Men

Media 2.0 Workgroup

“Don’t compare your journalism with that of another newspaper. Compare it with the needs of the community.”
Steve Yelvington

Roy Peter Clark from Poynter is getting ripped a new one by his colleagues (like the one quoted above or the ones mentioned here) for his statement that says journalists owe it to each other to read the paper. In essence he’s saying that if journalists of traditional print media can’t help save each other, all is essentially lost. Roy Clark is a much smarter man than I, no doubt about that, but I think he’s argueing the wrong point here. Of course, print media is hurting, traditional news is suffering. Their business model was built on scarcity, the scarcity of news and information. These days we have an excess of both, all competing for our attention whether via TV, TiVO, iPhone, Computer Screen, Blog, News Aggregators, News Websites, Talk Radio etc… By the time I can even find a news paper these days I’ve already heard about the ‘headline news’ three times over!

Yes, quality journalism is not the same as news but, then again, quality isn’t what it used to be either. CNN used to be quality news. Fox used to be quality news. (humor me) The Washington Post used to be quality. But it’s hard to keep putting out quality transparent news when there are 100,000 opinion news blogs who don’t have to play by the rules. My news now comes from 30 different sources that I read or watch each day (from the far left to the far right), the truth is in there somewhere and I’m confident in my own ability to sniff it out. the fact of the matter is that I don’t trust the old news outlets any more. It’s not that I feel transparency ever existed, it didn’t. But now it’s such a thinly veiled lie that it seems ridiculous. I’d much rather read the Huffington Post, that blatantly states it’s liberal biases, than watch as CNN anchors try to hide behind the mask of ‘journalism’.

Meanwhile, many journalists have become mercenaries for the new-blogs-on-the-block.

The conundrum is how is the community best served? My personal opinion is that fair and balanced news was killed not-too long after the birth of the 24-hour news network. 24-hour news television is paid for, like most television programs, by advertising. Advertisers want high numbers, lots of viewers. To get viewers, news goes from being simply informative to sensational. News had to capitalize. Then, when there was competition (new 24-hour news networks) sides were drawn. Stories were spun and everyone suffered. Print is getting hit hardest because not only are stories old before the ink dries these days, print ads feel extraordinarily intrusive for a generation that grew up with Adsense and Adwords.

To serve the community, as Steve Yelvington stated, the whole model has to change. Find a different way to monetize print media. Downsize your inflated staff, print less at once and then you can print more, more frequently. You’ll have to because we can update our blogs as frequently as I want for essentially nothing. The answer isn’t begging the public and your colleagues to read, figure out how best they need be served. The answer is there just waiting for someone to discover it first.

But what do I know, I don’t read the paper.

The Media 2.0 Workgroup is a group of industry commentators, agitators and innovators who believe that the phenomena of democratic participation will change the face of media creation, distribution and consumption.

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