Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, March 13, 2021

Today’s sale of Knight-Ridder to McClatchy will involve the sale and/or shuttering of 12 of KR’s newspapers. And remember: A deal with McClatchy was the best-case scenario, because the alternative would have been acquisition by private equity vultures who probably would have gutted the company to the barest of bones.

This is a continuation of a decades-long trend, recently accelerated by the mushrooming of online media outlets. As a report from NYU’s Project for Excellence in Journalism illustrates, the irony is that as the news-dissemination landscape grows, the critical newsgathering infrastructure erodes.

The study depicts the media in an interregnum — with the reach of print, radio and television reduced, but the promise of an egalitarian online “citizen journalism” unfulfilled.

“It’s probably glib and even naive to say simply that more platforms equal more choices,” project Director Tom Rosenstiel said. “The content has to come from somewhere, and as older news-gathering media decline, some of the strengths they offer in monitoring the powerful and verifying the facts may be weakening as well.”

Who’s going to fill the void of the dedicated investigative reporter, who actually digs up information that otherwise wouldn’t appear on a website or in a press release? Probably no one. For all the criticism over biased and soft reporting, newspapers tend to be the main originators of original news content, doing the dirty work that supplies other outlets. When newsroom staffs get reduced, the effect is felt through the media landscape.

But there’s always citizen reporting via blogs, right? Wrong:

The study’s review of content across the media found that radio stations put few reporters in the field and Internet bloggers tended to offer opinions rather than new information. The study found original reporting in just 5% of blog postings it reviewed.

No surprise there, even though the number of people who rely on blogs as their prime news source increases. I’ve always said that blogs are valuable in terms of punditry and supplemental information on news items, but weak vehicles for news origination. The echo chamber effect give the illusion that a lot of news is being generated, but its just a lot of opinion, of varying quality, being bandied about endlessly. It’s this quality of the blogosphere that compels PR assaults like Edelman’s recent Wal-Mart rehabilitation campaign to target blogs — they’re easy, unfiltered pickings.

Plenty of bloggers think they can do journalism by gluing themselves to their mouse and monitors for a couple of hours a night, but the fact is, it’s not a hobbyist pursuit. It’s a job, and without enough resources, it’s a near-impossible job to fulfill.

The PEJ study suggests that this is a transitionary phase, that old media’s buckling business model is creating a vacuum that the new media inheritors aren’t able to effectively fill just yet. Presumably, an increasingly logged-in society will create a more monetized online media model that will make possible rigorous newsgathering, fulfilling the role of the fourth estate. Until then?

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/13/2006 11:25:26 AM
Category: Internet, Bloggin', Media | Permalink |

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