Do dying newspapers mean the death of journalism?

With newspapers dying all around us do we need to be worried that journalism will die along with them? No. That’s like equating the death of music with the decline in the traditional music industry. Music radio is dying but there is still lots of good music out there. Most newspapers have little to do with journalism anyway. Newspapers are just advertising platforms. In smaller markets they are referred to as ‘shoppers’. The type of paper that shows up once a week with some local news and pounds of flyers from local businesses. Don’t get me wrong – the flyers, and advertising in general, are an important part of our lives as consumers. They keep us informed on what new products our local big box stores are carrying. Journalism? Hardly. But they do pay the newspaper’s bills.

The core of the issue is that advertising funds media – broadcast and print. Period. And it has for decades. What’s killing newspapers is not the web but advertising. As advertising revenues drop, a newspaper’s operating budget needs to be trimmed. Sometimes journalists are included in the cut. A billion dollar business has grown from the early days of radio when vaudeville acts were put to work entertaining audiences while selling their sponsors products. These historic roots are evident in modern radio, TV, newspapers and other print media. Advertisers can sometimes dictate the theme of the news reported by a newspaper as well. Very political but evident in some of the larger metro papers. A new business model is needed to fund journalism as a separate entity.

The web will find a way to bring us the professional journalist who is looking for the truth in our human condition. There are some ‘blog’ based news publishers on the web looking for a new model to bring us the news and still be financially viable. Their cost advantage is in not having the high production costs – newsprint, presses, delivery trucks etc of traditional newspapers.They still use ads as a revenue source but the costs are scaled to fit the revenue available.

I’m old enough to remember Woodward & Bernstein from the Washington Post and the Nixon-Watergate fiasco. That was true journalism. That type of journalism will thrive no matter what happens to newspapers. The web gives us access to a wider perspective on news and events happening in our world. The web might even provide a new freedom to those true journalists who live to write.

Maybe it’s Tee-shirt time . . . here’s a few ideas: “Have you hugged a journalist today?”, or ” I ❤ Journalists”, or “Kiss me – I’m a journalist”.

Talk with you later . . .

Dean

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