Marry Me, Journalism Edition

Because, dude, seriously:

Newspapers started out with enormous advantages going into the digital age (remember “content is King”?) and have squandered it while others innovated. To take even one small example: there isn’t a single newspaper that has figured out a really usable way online to find out what’s going on tonight without lots of clicks and searching. So dozens of upstart online companies are finding a big audience. What a missed opportunity.

How many newspapers have reconfigured their staffing to reflect the new hybrid print/online reality? Why are high-paid editors and reporters uploading jpegs and podcasts when digital assistants ought to be doing the mechanical tasks? Fast-moving web companies have learned to move with audiences and make those audiences part of a community. Newspapers, for the most part, hold on to rigid models and jump on new tools (everybody blog now!) without understanding how those tools can be used.

If I was pointing fingers, I’d aim squarely at the business managers who are so locked into the old ways of doing things that they don’t even understand what the new issues are, let alone solutions to them. Journalists are being failed by those whose job it is to figure out the business side, and now journalists are paying the price for that lack of vision. Like somehow cheapening the product and giving readers less is going to attract more customers.

Newspaper execs expense their summer party drinks and then want reporters to take days without pay in order for the paper to break even. So long as we keep talking about Google, and how the Internet is ruining everything, we’ll never have time to examine the waste, fraud, general bullshit and egregious squandering of the public trust that are actually hurting journalism.

I was just having this conversation over the weekend with Mike, and we both came to the conclusion that if you don’t know your audience, can’t reach it effectively, won’t put the money into the things that actually would make a newspaper work for you, ie marketing and distribution, it’s downright criminal to put the blame on things like “changing tastes” (I mean, BZUH?) and the Interwebs.

And I’m really starting to think so many supposed industry critics and consultants and higher-ups at the corporate ownership level of the press talk about such things is that they’re counting on their employees not to know enough about the way the Internets really work to be able to stand up and say, with full confidence, “Excuse me sir but that’s complete and utter horseshit, and the only reason our paper’s in the tank is because you didn’t care enough to make it better.

Also, this is generally related to what is quickly becoming the major theme of my meatspace life, and that is the critical distinction between what you feel like doing, and what can be done. Because Jesus and Mary, do we ever hamstring ourselves in advance in the world, deciding ahead of time what’s achievable and figuring out exactly how much vacation time that leaves us with to slack the fuck off.

Which is a fancy way, really, of saying what this guy said, which is sack up, already, and quit whining.


3 thoughts on “Marry Me, Journalism Edition

  1. “Journalists are being failed by those whose job it is to figure out the business side.”
    Hasn’t that always been the case?
    Newspapers are so used to nice, big, fat profit margins (maintained be firing reporters whenever ad revenues drop) that the scale and ad rates of the Internet still seem ridiculous to them, and hardly worth the effort of hiring additional pink-collar personnel to upload photos and update links. Particularly when they can scare their editors and reporters into adding it to their long list of duties…

  2. Though the dinosaur analogy has been vastly overused, I think it really fits in this case. I don’t think the print media are going to easily make the transition to a largely on-line world. Instead, they’ll be supplanted by small, furry mammals. Like, which is using many of the same kinds of approaches that the old print media used (local shoe-leather based reporting) but couching it in an online format.
    VOSD is also a non-profit–which is another direction I think you’ll see local reporting going. Local reporting is one area where the print media still have a near-monopoly. But as newsroom staffs get cut back, those reporters are going to find other ways to make a living. They’ll create their own online news sources, and the local reporting monopoly will disappear. Hopefully, we’ll see local reporting getting back to being the public service that it used to be, and still should be.
    Certainly some of the majors in print media will survive and make the transition, but they’ll look vastly different than they do today. Kinda like birds, to stretch my metaphor to the breaking point.

  3. BuggyQ, if all the small, furry mammals take over, you know what that means?
    Seriously, though. People want information and if they can’t get good info from one place they’ll go to another. You have to either be that good place, or vacate the stage.

Comments are closed.