Or at least that’s the problem with blogging. What’s sensational? What’s easy to scan during your lunch hour? Tough reporting requires engaged citizens who ask questions and want to dig deep into the issues. Journalists–in the traditional sense–are becoming more rare. A blogger is a writer, but some are merely collectors, remixers, and reposters. (I’m currently at 10% original, 90% reposting)
Bill Keller, executive editor of the NYtimes, recently sat down to respond to the dire predictions of readers. Though the topic was inherently financial, he instead spoke eloquently about the values of journalism. Print isn’t dying, good journalism is:
First, there is a diminishing supply of quality journalism, and a growing demand. By quality journalism I mean the kind that involves experienced reporters going places, bearing witness, digging into records, developing sources, checking and double-checking, backed by editors who try to enforce high standards. I mean journalism that, however imperfect, labors hard to be trustworthy, to supply you with the information you need to be an engaged citizen. The supply of this kind of journalism is declining because it is hard, expensive, sometimes dangerous work. The traditional practitioners of this craft — mainly newspapers — have been downsizing or declaring bankruptcy. The wonderful florescence of communication ignited by the Internet contains countless voices riffing on the journalism of others but not so many that do serious reporting of their own. Hence the dwindling supply. The best evidence of the soaring demand is the phenomenal traffic to the Web sites that do dependable news reporting — nearly 20 million unique monthly visitors to the site you are currently reading, and that number excludes the burgeoning international audience. The law of supply and demand suggests that the market will find a way to make the demand pay for the supply.
There is no end of faith-based polemics on the subject of newspapers’ survival. Print is dead! Online readers must pay for content! Online readers will never pay for content! Give newspapers endowments, like universities! We should be a little suspicious of ironclad certainty. The fact is, we don’t really know yet how the behavior of readers and advertisers will evolve. We don’t really know for sure how to separate the consequences of a calamitous economic crisis from the enduring changes in behavior provoked by new technologies. I think in the next year or two, we must examine all our options with an open mind, test those that are testable, and make some hard choices. My expectation (and I remind you of the disclaimers regarding my business acumen) is that for the foreseeable future our business will continue to be a mix of print and online journalism, with the growth online offsetting the (gradual, we hope) decline of print.