Apr 18, 2008

Selling the news

Every now and again, someone stumbles anew upon the burgeoning trend of editors acting like publishers, serving as portals through which editorial and business concerns freely mix.

The muddying up of what people on both sides of the business once tried to keep separate is seen as a necessary response to falling revenues and a belief that print is toxic to the bottom line. All hands are needed to help crack the code that will finally turn the Internet into the cash cow we all believe it to be. What have we gotten? "Innovation" in many awkward forms, from poorly done MoJo to blog-envious blogs to incessant redesigns. And, of course, fewer people to create the products we're so desperate to sell.

So far, I see little evidence that this cross-pollination plan has done any good. One of the reasons is that advertising is a distinct job from reporting news. The two sides have a fundamentally different purpose. Moreover, the post-newspaper plan is being drawn by people who no longer believe in what they're doing. The sense of purpose, mission and quality (standards, if you will) have faded away and in their place resignation and mistrust have take root.

People are resigned that the ideals that got them into the job in the first place are flawed (the balance sheet tells us so) and so must be cast aside. As a result, they start to mistrust both the standards they once hewed to and the readers they thought they were serving. After all, if the readers aren't rewarding us for good journalism, then clearly good journalism is losing its value.

I've talked to many people who spend their time rationalizing how the "realities" of the business woke them up from their crazy, idealistic slumber. At once they feel like grownups, but they also act as if they were confronted with a diagnosis of mental illness from which they long to be cured - a moral stain that can only be cleansed through a capitalist baptism.

However, I'm convinced restoration will soon be at hand. One can only suspend one's instincts for so long. The disenchanted will come to see that journalism was never under threat. The new lingo (hyperlocal, monetizing the news, etc.) will start to lose its meaning and words of substance will take its place. The hucksters won't last and greedy were always in it for the short term.

None of this is to say that editors and newsrooms aren't key in remaking themselves to adapt to and take advantage of new ways of communicating. But success means having the balls to put journalism first and trust that, in the long run, that's the thing that is going to sell. Selling out is a sucker's bet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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