When I wrote my last post, I wasn’t trying to start drama. I am not anti-reporter or even anti-newspaper. I fully believe that reporters have an important place in a thriving democracy, but we have to stop ignoring the importance of the Internet. The fastest, easiest, most interactive way to deliver the news and other content found in a newspaper is via the Internet.
Just like other industries before us, journalists must learn to adapt to the new technology or face extermination. The music industry wanted to keep cranking out silver plastic discs, but people wanted music files. Apple now makes more money selling music (and iPods) than most recording companies do.
People don’t want to go to a bookstore to look for a book that the store doesn’t have. Now, they can go to Amazon.com and find thousands of titles including hard-to-find and out-of-print books. They even have used books too. And there is so much more than books at Amazon.com.
TV is finding ways to adapt. Look at NBC and Fox’s site Hulu.com – it turned a profit this year when people said it could not be done. They said that YouTube would kill any chance Hulu had of success.
I think that iTunes, Amazon.com and Hulu.com are all better than the old way of doing business. Sure there are things lost like album cover art, the joy of perusing a book store full of shelves and the knowledge that the whole country was watching “Cheers” at the same time. But that has been replaced with being able to find what you want, when you want it, where you want it.
Journalism is experiencing difficult times, there is no doubt about it. Too many newspaper companies are too deep in debt, burdened with expensive print equipment and seeing traditional sources of ad revenue die. But that does not mean journalism is dead. Far from it.
Look around the Internet, there is so much great journalism going on. Just yesterday I was reading how the Washington Post created a tool for making map/timeline hybrids. This is only possible on the net where you can incorporate print techniques with video and add in a dash of interactivity.
The Internet is also holding journalists more accountable to their readers. The readers can now comment and Twitter back. They can point out our mistakes and also point the way to new sources and stories that we could never have found on our own.
The Internet is realatively limitless. Stories no longer have to get cut for space, neither do photos – which can now be run in color all the time. Photojournalists often spent hours on assignment to have one photo in the newspaper, now can have a slideshow that gives them a bigger place on the paper’s staff.
What journalists need to see is that Niche is where we must live. People will pay for content they find valuable and advertisers will pay to be connected to those who want to buy their products. It is not journalism that’s dead, but a delivery model for journalism that was created for the industrial revolution. Newspapers printed on dead trees were high tech more than 100 years ago. But today’s high tech means online.
Print is also not dead. Kids read print! They read printed products that interest them – just ask them. They read magazines mostly. They read magazines about video games, fashion, sports, celebrities, technology, music, etc. They read about what they are interested in and will continue to do so as they get older. They like the feel of holding a magazine and they like the full color, large photos. And they do READ the articles. But they don’t like jumps, they are not reader friendly.
How do I know this – asked my students. They love the Internet, but they still like television and enjoy magazines. Radio, that is in trouble. They’d rather listend to their iPods. I think print has a future, a future that is about smaller, niche based magazines with a sustainable sized staff and a great online presence. I don’t think newspapers are dead, just in trouble. Many will die, others will get a lot smaller, and some may come out of this stronger.
People fear change. Change is disruptive and messy. The worst part of this is that people are losing their livelihoods. I wish there was a painless way for journalists to transition from print to online or online/print hybirds without facing job loss. And of course it is hard to stay positive when no one knows how much longer they may have a job.
But journalists need to be their own best friends, not their own enemies. Believe in journalism. Stop worrying about the platform. If you are a journalist, keep doing it. It is important and people consume more of it than ever. If you can, work for a company that looks toward the future, not to the past. Stop being so glum, journalism is about to get better than ever. I believe this, I’m having more fun teaching it than I have in 14 years as a teacher and five years working in the industry before that.