This semester I’ve learned a lot about journalism, or so I thought.
I was a part of an online journalism class and an enterprise journalism class. Both had conflicting views on journalism, the direction it’s headed and what citizen journalism is. It was interesting to see and learn from these different professors and their thoughts on the news industry.
I found that my opinions would start to change from one day to the next depending on what lecture or lesson I just had. At one end of the spectrum I had a professor teaching me the wonders of blogs, interactive content and all other things you can do on the web in the journalism business. Then I would go to another class where he talked about the wonders of the newsroom, hard-nosed reporting and investigative pieces.
To make a long story short I think this semester I went a schizophrenic.
One part of me has learned to love blogging. I love giving my opinion and the immediate satisfaction of hitting publish. The other part of me romanticizes journalism and the idea of getting a scoop or tip and running with it.
Every week I feel like I changed my mind about what I wanted to use my journalism degree for. Is it useless? Will I end up blogging on some no-name website or will I end up covering stories for a newspaper? Will there even be newspapers in three to five years?
Getting two different opinions, while at times confusing, actually made me a better journalist I think. Because of both of these classes I got to have more experience in both the online and print journalism world, which I hope will be an asset when I’m looking for a job.
It’s also nice to know that I’m not the only one confused about where journalism is heading… my professors don’t know either.
Have you read John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney’s article at The Nation about How to Save Journalism? You should.
In it, they discuss different federal agencies and the work they have been doing in examining the problems in our nation’s newsrooms. Each agency has undergone investigations and have been discussing proposals that may help the newspaper industry. Within the next few weeks the FTC is going to hold hearings to figure out what they can do to eliminate the shrinking number of jobs there are at newspapers.
In the third paragraph the authors bring up a great point, one that I’m surprised and annoyed that no one else has brought up before.
the way the challenges facing journalism are being discussed, indeed the way the crisis itself is being framed, will make it tough for even the most sincere policy-makers to offer a viable answer to it.
The authors point to the language used in many of these conferences and how the entire industry is being framed as obsolete because of the internet.
The FTC’s conference is titled “How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?” FCC chair Julius Genachowski explains the crisis as the result of “game-changing new technologies as well as the economic downturn.” The assumption is clear: it’s the Internet that’s the problem. But just as MTV’s debut pronouncement that “Video Killed the Radio Star” proved to be dramatically overstated, so is the notion that journalism’s disintegration can be attributed to a brand-new digital revolution or even an old-fashioned economic meltdown.
Another interesting section chronicles the downfall of newspapers predating the surge in popularity of the internet. This hasn’t previously been discussed and really sheds some light on what has gone wrong.
Wired.com’s Chris Anderson wrote a piece in 2008 entitled Free! Why $0.00 is the Future of Business.
In the article he makes some great points, but at times his ideas seem wild and impossible. While I realize that most content on the internet is currently free, I do not see how that is going to be possible in the future. With newspapers and magazines trying to be online only, how will they turn a profit if they do not charge for their content?
Right now advertising online is not making the profit newspapers wish it was. Thus, newspapers cannot rely on that alone to keep a publication afloat.
Perhaps the most interesting Anderson discusses is “Freemium”, where:
The traditional free sample is the promotional candy bar handout or the diapers mailed to a new mother. Since these samples have real costs, the manufacturer gives away only a tiny quantity — hoping to hook consumers and stimulate demand for many more.
In the freemium model, that means for every user who pays for the premium version of the site, 99 others get the basic free version. The reason this works is that the cost of serving the 99 percent is close enough to zero to call it nothing.
The example Anderson gives is Flickr and Flickr Pro. Users do not have to pay for Flickr but Flickr Pro costs roughly $25 a year. I understand this business model but how is that going to work for newspapers or magazines, when the mere thought of paying for an online subscription makes people livid?
As Anderson states in his article, information wants to be free and free is what we want information to be, so soon it will all be free online. This is a bold statement, one that I’m not ready to admit to working just yet.