Nov 30, 2007

The trickle up effect

There's a crisis in the newspaper industry, New York Times Editor Bill Keller says. And, surprisingly enough, this time it has to do with the news.

In a speech given in London, Keller reminds the audience that doing journalism is very different thing from commenting on or reacting to it, as so many blogs and television shows do. He makes the point to illustrate that the real threat to newspapers is not from the outside (commentary never killed anyone) but from the inside, where newspaper owners and newsroom leaders have shown "a loss of faith, a failure of resolve" in their own profession.

I suppose I must count myself among the fallen, at least for now.

Still, this is heartening to hear. As I've argued before, the biggest threat to print journalism comes neither from dwindling profits nor from the Internet, but from the willingness of journalists at feeder newspapers to lower their standards. I guess I understand: After the barons rape and pillage, the survivors are often too few to mount a rescue mission, leaving a weary, depressed and smaller workforce to toil in the wake.

I challenge Keller and his brethren to launch a conservation campaign. Chain yourself to a downsized journalist! Barricade the newsroom doors the next time newsroom firings are announced!

After all, these young journalists are the raw material larger papers must harvest to survive. What will the New York Times and its competition do in a generation when all that's let are journalists who act like abuse survivors?

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