The news isn’t free, Robert Samuelson writes in his column, and it never really was. But he happened to work most of his career in an era of profitable newspapers with an advertising monopoly. Under that model, newspaper owners, confident of their place in the media, pursued their vision of the public good, and you couldn’t buy the comics and sports pages a la carte — you had to at least flip past the serious news headlines. That era’s gone, and what has replaced it so far is counting clicks.
PostScript shall PostScript on Samuelson’s column today because it is the most-read (most clicked, anyway!) story on the opinion page. Ahem.
A debate sprang up in the comments about where journalism can go from here.
flyover22 can deal with the current system but misses information for information’s sake:
Newspapers have changed from reporting the news to a self-proclaimed “positive” force to change the world. From cynical reporters who distrusted or was suspicious of politicians, political actions, big business, big banks, big unions, or any other form of power, to a cheerleader that takes sides with power. Newspapers have become, not a haven for information, but another piece of spin. And as such it has become just one more commodity in the commodity world of information.
I love the Post for its writing, and I can filter the liberal and Washington bias as I read it, but can I trust it for my informational needs? The news isn’t free, but only a fool pays for half a story, or an opinion or position that is predictable and already known.
kdawgSW says the biggest danger now is seeing the newspaper’s stories entirely from a financial point of view, meaning we’re abandoning the unsexy, boring stories not many people read:
The Internet is not the only dangerous threat to the newsroom, commercialization of the news industry is the most damaging. Due to capitalistic forces, news must now compete as entertainment, so now we get more Anna Nicole Smith, Paris Hilton and Jersey Shore news mixed in with hard news items. Further, there is now an increase in paid partisanship in the news industry, which enables those with political gain in mind to take control of news assignments. Regardless of political persuasion, this has been most damaging by keeping the American voter focused on a series of minor news issues in comparison to the larger ones at hand, such as the structural changes to our economy, which rarely gets a paragraph in the daily papers and absolves either major party from addressing the issue and fixing it.
I have no answers as to how to fix the problems in the current newsroom, but combined with the Internet, the newsroom is swamped with forces that are forever changing the industry for the worse, worse for voters and worse for democracy. The beneficiary is capitalism.
NOMA1, too, wants more unsexy, but fears there’s no market for it:
I agree entirely with the most important point of this piece: the craft of journalism is losing out to competition that gains ground by employing lesser standards. The consequences could be far reaching, but are difficult to assess objectively.
moebius22 thinks there is a market for hard news, just different takes than you get from media conglomerates:
Generally, people aren’t stupid. They desire to hear about stories they know the big media sources don’t cover.
Well, then there should be market demand for those stories, right? Enough to finance what those stories cost?
Nonsense. I don’t think people are “stupid.” The Village Voice, the Washington Blade, a handful of other papers handle stories (mostly local) that larger ones don’t. But for all the ambiguous accusations levied against the Post, the Times, the Globe, the Tribune, etc. regarding “stories they don’t cover,” I’ve never seen any evidence that they’re not willing to take on big business, state, local and federal governments, conventional wisdom, or in many cases, even their parent companies.
Well, heh, yeah. You wouldn’t see the evidence, would you? Unless we put it in a bikini or said the government doesn’t want you to CLICK HERE!!