Are Journalists Irrelevant and Indispensible?

The Road Ahead: News May 2010
Photo by: Jenny W.

Reporting on the recent AP board meeting, Shoreline News sees “a glimmer of hope for beleaguered news providers” in that the AP intends to offer centralized business development, negotiating for its member newspapers and thereby helping them better extract revenues from web and mobile platforms. The E newsletter quotes AP Chairman Dean Singleton: “We need one voice, not only to work on business relationships but also new products that we might go together and also application frameworks so we decided AP should speak for the industry and work for the industry.” Journalism as a platform, Shore says.

An Arbitron and Edison survey, reported in a Mediapost Research Brief reveals 48% of all Americans over 12 years of age have a profile on one or more social networks. For teens it is 78 % while more Americans, 42%, rate the Internet as the most essential medium in their lives compared to television, radio or newspapers. Another Research Brief supporting that study tells the reaction of 200 college students who went ”24 Hours Unplugged” at the University of Maryland. They reported, “going without media in their world meant going without friends and families.” According to the study the students get their news and information in “disaggregated ways” and have only casual relationships to actual news outlets.

The takeaway for journalists, according to the report: readers and viewers of the future see them (journalists) as both irrelevant and indispensable. Apparently they don’t care how news and information comes to them, they just want it.

Not directly related but an interesting prediction in the shift in values cloud computing could bring comes from Max Kalehoff writing for Online Spin. As an example he offers music collections. With literally thousands of tunes at our finger tip for little or no investment and no longer needing to invest in records, tapes, or discs or to provide the space to store them along with the equipment to enjoy them, music collections no longer become a personal expression of our taste and mean less to us.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Journalists – real journalists – are indispensible if readers want real reportage, as opposed to simply what is called “advertorial.” However, journalists become irrelevant when those being reported upon, are required to run ads, to have journalists assigned to cover their products or events.

    You brought up the matter of music reviews. In our realm – auto journalism – the world of collector car auctions, and the reportage of same, has changed radically, as it has become what one auction editor I know – who shall remain anonymous – calls a “pay for play world.”

    Said auction editor works for a vintage car publication, published weekly, that has lost much of its former readership, and gained few amongst younger enthusiasts, to publications that have more agressively pursued and embraced, having an Internet presence, as well as being (still) in print. Moreover, some of the biggest auction concerns ceased to run ads in that publication, as it lost market share – pure common sense.

    In a fit of ill-advised pique, that auction editor told me I could no longer cover auctions staged by one of those companies, Silver Auctions, which is the main collector car auction company in the northwest (headquartered in Spokane, WA), and the one that stages the premier auction for street rods and muscle cars in America; that being the four day auction, held in Reno NV, in conjunction with Hot August Nights. It put me in a really bad spot, since Mitch is a personal friend of mine, and so too, was that editor (who now hardly ever contacts me, being held on a short leash by the new owners, F&W Media).

    I’ve had readers of my reports, come up to me and ask what happened to coverage of Reno, and I’ve told them. At first, they were incredulous. Now, as cynicism has embraced readers as well as journalists, they are accepting of the Faustian bargain required to gain coverage.

    The net result is that Silver Auctions regularly posts the results to all their auctions, about a week after the event. on their own website. Essentially, I’ve been replaced. Fortunately, there are still some outlets in which Mitch Silver runs ads, and for which I can do coverage of his auctions; without having Mitch approve the reportage, prior to publication – true journalism, for what it’s worth.

    Mitch has also embraced other vintage car publications, such as Sports Car Market, Hemmings Motor News, and the one I write for, Collector Car Market Review; as they are slick glossies, with national distribution, with readership and web-sites that readers – especially younger ones – gravitate towards.

    It’s also the reason I started my own blog. That way, I don’t have to be caught in the middle, between an auction editor and the ad department. So it goes if one wants to remain “relevant.”

  2. It is sad but true that today’s younger readers don’t really understand good journalism vs. “information.” Or seem to care. Generally, under 35 year olds get their news online and with the possible exception of The New York Times, have not read a super high quality daily newspaper since they don’t really exist anymore.

    Newsweek for sale? TIME a quarter of an inch thick because of the same problem: no ads. Meanwhile, the likes of COSMOPOLITAN (otherwise known as Orgasm Monthly, I sure wouldn’t want my teenagers reading it) are among the relatively few magazines with robust ad pages.

    I spent years as a journalist and it is hard to admit, but perhaps like printers and typesetters, it’s a dying art. Unlike those, however, I’d like to think that the need for good reporting and writing will ultimately prevail. And that news organizations (including car magazines!) will be able to charge online readers for their product. Let’s hope Rupert Murdoch’s efforts in this regard are successful. That, my friends, is at least one way that a need for quality reporters and editors will continue in the marketplace.

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