The findings in the State of the News Media 2009 Report are sobering, to say the least.
I knew the numbers were bad, I’ve been hearing it in every journalism class I take and reading it in print and online. But a look at the actual numbers says things are worse than I thought. One out of every five journalists gone? That would be two, possibly three people from our class alone.
I see much of the problem the media face coming from public attitudes toward them. If only 8 percent of Americans have “a great deal of confidence” in the news media, why would we expect the other 92 percent to pay any attention to us? Why wouldn’t we expect that the only way the 18 percent who have “no confidence at all” would read or listen to our news would be for free, if that?
I think this ties to the increase the report found in the power of individual journalists. An audience that has found the media as a whole untrustworthy turned to individual journalists they felt they could trust or with whom they shared a bias. I really think this is where media are headed: key players, not key teams.
The failure of the media to adapt early on to the web and to be the industry that set the model and pace for others is an integral part of the current crisis. The game of catch-up and the struggle to turn our current work to on-demand has only fueled the fire of negative public feelings in the media because we provide inaccurate or biased information. I think the catch-up needs to end and real evolution of how we present the news will have to happen soon.
People tend to paint journalism and newspapers as one entity, but the truth is, newspapers are only one part of journalism. They are, in fact, a shrinking piece of a growing whole.
And while several parts of journalism are shrinking, two facets, online and cable, are growing. Just looking at online journalism, I believe there are a multitude of possibilities, especially for a young journalist, trained for the web and ready to work individually, who recognizes the problems and failures of the current and past news media.
I think this only provides more opportunities to young journalists, and I actually look forward to creating and working in a role that maybe hasn’t been filled by any journalist before.
I highly recommend reading this article about the reality of newspapers and online journalism.
In other news, I spent Spring Break this year in (and getting to) Seattle. Here’s beautiful Seattle by ferry at night.