Dec 31, 2009

Just like the news on TV?

An economist at Hunter College says the Internet will reshape journalism so that there are fewer journalists overall and those who remain will be paid better. Since the former has already happened and the latter doesn't seem to be, what's her rationale?:
People who do read internet news focus on many fewer sources than what we see in the hard news or the old fashioned newspaper, physical paper world. That means that the journalist whose articles were at the back page of Section B at a middle of the road newspaper is probably not going to see too much readership in the future. Instead, some of the best reporters and the most insightful commentary will come from fewer and fewer sources. But these reporters will have national reputations, and those reputations will be well-financed both from media itself and also from books and speaking engagements.
That's basically the television model. Fewer faces needed to deliver a blander version of the days top stories in an easily digestible form. At first blush, the Internet version of this would seem to be more of a merit system, where the best journalists flourish and build a regional or national audience, and the weaker get left behind. But as we know from the television model, the best aren't necessarily the faces you see or voices you hear. That's television news companies see news as a secondary product. Higher pay isn't dolled out to the best investigators or strongest beat reporters, it's given to those who can handle exposure, know how to maintain a brand identity and have faces that can be marketed to the public. Corporations more often pick people not based on skill at doing journalism, but who are attractive enough to pull in audience.

If the Hunter College professor is right in her assessment, something similar could happen to written journalism. That doesn't mean good journalism goes away, but it means the career filters are controlled by companies more attuned to the TV model than the newspaper one. And big, tough investigations aren't the things I see on "Meet the Press" or "Good Morning America."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just wondering WHO is going to decide who these better, more talented journalists are. After all, the past 25 years have been spent elevating "yes" people to the highest positions in news. Many wouldn't recognize true talent if it bit them in the butt. If they're still in charge, I can guarantee you they won't be putting their jobs in jeopardy by hiring smarter, better reporters.