Journalism Will Be Okay
Today, a friend of mine sent me an article on the steady death of investigative journalism. As a retort, I told him about an article I read some weeks prior about how hubris and journalists' quest for awards killed newspapers. I can't find the article right now, which is why it wasn't hyperlinked, but a Google of what killed newspapers will show you there isn't really a consensus on what is causing the death of the medium.
Many are saying the Internet (specifically blogs, perish the thought) is at the forefront on the death of journalism. If that's the case, it's amazingly ironic that I'm using this medium to try to get my foot in the door of journalism since I would be slitting my wrists and signing the paperwork in the emergency room of the hospital simultaneously. But apparently, the internet has only stolen away 3% of newspaper readership. More so, people do read the newspaper the same way they surf the internet. I most certainly don't read the San Antonio Express-News online the same way others would read it in print. It's a completely different story with the New York Times.
Folks are blaming Twitter for shorter attention spans. I wouldn't want to believe it, partially because I've fallen for the service quite a bit. While some have decried it as a lazy medium, insufficient for accurately informing the masses at the sake of expediency, others have said 140 characters may just be all you need for some things like good criticism. Although, I must say that tweeting about tweeting is a level of Meta that deserves a blog post all its own (And it likely might. There's a Post-it on my monitor that calls out to me.)
But when you get right down to it, journalism is dying because it's failing to transform to the times. Yes, it needs to be sleeker to adapt to a smaller infrastructure that it can sustain online. It needs to find a new way to be both fast and accurate (which unfortunately, sites like TMZ have been able to do more often lately).
But largely, it needs to stay both sustainable and relevant. Readers must continue to read the work of established journalists, not just any amateur who comes out the pike (except for me and maybe a couple of friends, hopefully). Internet revenue needs to rise to respectable numbers, specifically ads. Journalism needs to innovate, not just bail water out of the boat. It needs to transform, not just complain. It needs to reach out, not just stolidly face the rising tide. In order for journalism to survive, investigative or no, op-eds or no, feature writing or no, news beats or no, it must rethink its business model and its editorial content. It must find a way to make the Internet work for it.
Let's take for example, my hometown paper, the aforementioned San Antonio Express-News. This is a paper that has been paring back its staff but has also managed to embrace technology better than other paper's I've seen lately. The New York Times has a fantastic video element, but I can Twitter with multiple writers and the editor-in-chief for the E-N. I certainly can't do that with Maureen Dowd or Bob Herbert for the Times. There's a certain interactivity that didn't seem as easily accessible in prior journalism. The Express-News also manages to diversify with its 210SA Magazine, its separate online presence from its print presence, and its ability to be a real part of the landscape of San Antonio despite San Antonio being such an immense city. While this paper, like many other in the nation, is languishing, it's also finding its own way out of the ashes. That's quite admirable.
I know that journalism will still go on. In a 21st Century of information overload, someone still has to provide the information. While people are worried about the future of journalism, our culture will not simply let it die. Expecting journalism to live on in the same form, though, is entirely out of the question. Journalism must reform in the face of new technology. It must adapt to how a younger generation gets its news while not alienating its older audience that will still walk to the corner store every morning with a couple of quarters and general curiosity. I'm keeping hope alive that things will turn out okay.