When I sit down each week to write my political column for The Chanticleer, I’ve got a choice to make.Generally, that choice goes like this: Should I write about Mitt’s latest mishap, or maybe switch things up a bit and criticize someone on the other side of the aisle?
I have to say, writing about politics all the time can be disheartening.
This week, I’m digressing. No politics. No underhanded mud-slinging. No religiously-motivated violence. Instead, I want to talk about something equally important— journalism. Especially in the context of the Digital Age.
Many veterans of the news gathering profession would tell you that it’s not a very upbeat conversation to have. The human experience, every last bit of it, and the news has changed drastically thanks to the Web.
Our real world lives and online lives are becoming irrevocably entwined. We’re indistinguishable from our Twitter feed and inseparable from our smartphones. It makes sense that journalism would have to change, too.
The news gathering industry was slow to pick up on that, but it’s getting there.
Ten years ago, though, journalists were terrified of the direction their profession was heading, especially those working in print.
Newspaper circulation was down, a trend that began at the end of World War II and has continued until today. There hasn’t been a newspaper company that has managed to produce a gain in daily circulation since 1987, according to statistics provided by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
To compound that problem, the newly-emergent World Wide Web seemed to be sucking what life remained in “dead tree” news media away.
Sites like Google, Yahoo and Craigslist provide the same services that newspapers do for free.
So the relationship between the internet and those who disseminate the news has always been a little touchy.
Rupert Murdoch, 81-year old CEO of the media conglomerate that owns The New York Times, tweeted that Google was the “piracy leader.”
It got so bad that Bob Woodward, famous for uncovering and breaking the Watergate scandal with fellow journalist Carl Bernstein, said that then-CEO of Google Eric Schmidt’s tombstone ought to read “I killed newspapers.”
While Woodward may be an excellent journalist whose reporting has done wonders, he’s still wrong.
Google and the Internet are not to blame for the state of journalism today; the journalists are. Our entire business model for the news gathering industry is extremely outdated and has to change.
In fact, Google and Eric Schmidt probably deserve more credit for keeping newspapers alive than newspapers themselves.
Sept. 22nd marked the tenth birthday of Google News, a news aggregator site that algorithmically gathers and displays links to articles from thousands of news outlets.
More than a billion people use Google News to get their news each week. All that traffic, plus search results from Google, equates to over four billion unique visitors a month for news outlets overall. In the new world of online news media, that’s a big deal.
If journalism is going to survive as a profession it has to change.
And it will; it’s in the process of doing so right now. Several news outlets, The Wall Street Journal among them, have managed to successfully charge for access to online content.
Considering where we’re headed technologically with smartphones and tablets, the best solution would be a subscription-based digital news application that provides a customized bundle of services, like news and entertainment, as well as targeted advertising.
The most creative among our generation of professionals may graduate college, venture forth into the wild blue yonder and change everything; but people will always want to know what’s going on at the county courthouse.