The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media

The “end” of journalism

Jeremy LittauA new publication launched here in town, an alt newspaper weekly like you have probably seen in your towns. This one is a mixture of staff copy and citizen submissions run side-by-side, and it has some decent advertising.

But what caught my eye was its declaration of the end of journalism. The reasoning in the cover story was that Web 2.0 is giving people access to daily journalism and will end professional (read: elitist) journalism as we know it.

As much as I believe participatory media such as blogs are changing the news business, I am a firm believer that professional news (in some form) is here to stay. If something big were going on in another city, I am more likely to trust a professional reporter than the average citizen. It is the mundane stuff where the citizen is more agile and able to compete.

People will buy political news when they care about politics; what are we doing trying to sell them stories about a local bake sale fund-raiser? Why would they want to buy something like that?

The rise of participatory media is not a function of technology, in my opinion. It really is coming on because the public are starting to see the farce of elevating mundane local news to the same value we give stories on Washington policy. The paper still comes out on a slow news day, and we charge the same amount no matter how much value we offer them. Doesn’t that really devalue the product when we charge the same for a slow news day as we do on a major news day?

Given the choice, I won’t pay for the newspaper with the bake sale on the front. I’ll get it from free media or go without, because it doesn’t have value for me. There are two scary thoughts that follow that statement. First, I believe in newspapers, so for me to go without is a big step. Second, I’m in the Gen X generation that publishers have been chasing, and I don’t think I’m all that different from my peers.

So maybe we’re not at the end of journalism. Maybe we’re at the end of watered-down products and bloated news organizations that produce more filler than news. Perhaps less — publishing less often, using less news hole on slow days, charging less on slow news days — really is more.

July 10, 2007 - Posted by | Jeremy Littau

1 Comment »

  1. Amen! Let the fall of Backfence be a great reminder that the citizens will not carry the day without a great amount of coaching and support from experienced pros. If you build it, they will not come. If you begg them, prod them, lure them, coach them…well, they might come.

    Comment by Brendan Watson | July 12, 2007 | Reply

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