Sunday, November 2, 2008

Old Media

Detail from Van Gogh's Old Man in Sorrow (On the Threshold of Eternity)

Print Journalism Beware: Christian Science Monitor, one of the nation’s oldest dailies will soon move from paper to web page; Time Inc. is laying off 600 employees; and Gannett plans to let go of 3,000 people, according to David Carr of the New York Times.

It’s as if the Wall Street virus has moved into newsrooms, only the public won’t react as powerfully to this crisis. After all, Joe the Plumber is a plumber, unlike Jorge the Journalist. It sounds more like this is the news industry’s business to figure out how to resolve the lost revenues in print media, not Joe’s. However, shouldn’t he be just as worried?

David Carr writes that it’s not just old media mongers who are concerned about the decline of major print outlets; He names Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt as one worried media expert who envisions major damage to the Web if the great dailies were to disappear. It would become a “cesspool of useless information.”

How else will smaller newsrooms affect Joe?

NPR’s Madeline Brand says, “There’s lots of news out there and now fewer people to cover it.”

For example, if Plumber Joe reads the L.A Times, he’ll only hear from the staff’s one movie reviewer. If he reads one of Gannett’s papers, he’ll be served news from “fewer reporters and editors overseeing the deeds and misdeeds of local government and businesses,” writes David Carr.

One “Editors’ Selection” comment (see No.8) following Carr’s article notes that online articles are read differently than printed articles.

An example of this might be Yahoo’s reporting of CSM’s new home on the web compared to Business Week’s article on the same issue.

Headlines in the Yahoo article highlight “Fully Embracing the Internet,” and “The Wave of the Future.” Business Week heads two sections of its article, “Layoffs Loom,” and “A Heftier Read.”

At the core, this sounds like a revenue/consumer issue for the news industry to resolve, but it wouldn’t hurt to have more reporting and deeper analysis on the new mutation of printed materials.


M. Dery said...

A lot of interesting ideas bouncing around in here. But is this a post about
A. the extinction of old-media species or
B. whether the masses should care if there are fewer journalistic watchdogs sleeping with one eye open or
C. the neurocognitive differences between reading online and off-, or
D. the different demands information hunter-gatherers place on print media versus Web media?
Or all of the above?
A few transitional sentences would have helped smooth the flow of one idea to another, helping your reader follow the bouncing ball of your argument. Or is there an argument? This feels free-associated and, at time, more synoptic than analytic.
Still, great use of wide-ranging sources. Especially like your idea of linking to a commenter. After all, why not? We take our insights wherever we can find them.
One HUGE point, begging to be addressed, which goes unaddressed in your post is Schmidt's tacit assumption that media consumers look exclusively to the mainstream media for their movie reviews, investigative reporting, et. al. I mean, isn't that the assumption behind his calamity howling about how we'll be drowning in a cesspool of trivia and gossip if the Big Media dinosaurs die off? My colleague Mitch Stephens would reply that the blogosphere and new media outlets like Daily Beast, Huffington Post, and Politico are filling that void. Of course, the Devil's Advocate would then argue that the cites in question are in fact heavily reliant on the MSM, routinely linking to major daily newspaper sites. Would love to have heard your thoughts on these points.

M. Dery said...

This just in, from Romenesko:

"A world with a weakened AP is not one I'd like to consider" (BusinessWeek).

"Its news service would never be replicated," writes Jon Fine. "The 162-year-old AP is poised to loom larger than ever as a news entity, given how American newspapers are slashing staff. Unless the very factors that could enable its rise don't destroy it first."