Is journalism in crisis?

My response to Kevin Anderson’s column of the same title for Al-Jazeera English:

Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that journalism and journalists are still figuring out how to navigate the new and still-evolving digital media landscape from an economic standpoint. I work in media at a medium-sized newspaper in the United States, and we’ve dramatically cut back on staff while reducing issue size and slashing content. This while steadily losing subscribers to the print edition while gaining page views on our website. It’s not my forte, but somehow that uptick in views does eventually need to be monetized. I think it’s fairly inevitable that traditional print media will continue its long decline and eventual death (even despite stubborn 27-year olds who love nothing more than newsprint-stained fingers). However, and at the same time, we’re frankly living in a golden age of journalism, as social media both expands the network of potential readers and journalists, but also has been proven to bring stories to light that might not have done so in the pre-digital era. The example par excellence, of course, is the ongoing investigation into the murky world of the Murdoch empire. Independent media is thriving, and I find myself daily filtering what I have time to read, listen to, or watch, as it’s no longer even conceivable to check off every media outlet on the ideal list. I look at organizations like Democracy Now! which does incredible work and features extremely high levels of journalistic quality and integrity, and know that 15 years ago, Democracy Now! probably couldn’t have existed.

So in summary, journalism’s crisis isn’t a lack of qualified reporters/columnists nor a lack of a means of distribution, but rather a (hopefully temporary) crisis due to a paradigm shift to which editors, publishers, and journalists are still figuring out how to respond. The greater threat stems from the yellow journalism as practiced by — in the United States, at least — the main three cable networks (Fox in particular, but MSNBC and CNN as well), and their willingness to demean their audience’s intelligence at every step. That Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” is considered the most trusted news source in America should say something.

~ by Benji on April 25, 2012.

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