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Will journalism survive? In what form?

October 2, 2015

Tags: journalism, digital journalism, future of news

by Pat McNees
As the advertising-pays-for-print-journalism model stops working, will the blog-for-free-because-it-will-give-you-exposure-and-a-platform model replace it in the name of "citizen journalism"? What are the alternatives? Am providing links here to some of the debates and articles circulating on this topic -- most recently at the top:

Meet The Modern-Day Journalist (Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Association Media and Publishing, May/June 2015) "The nature of how journalism gets done has changed drastically in recent years – digital communications and social media, media organization consolidations, downsizing and disappearances of traditional newspapers, citizen journalism, blogging as an alternative to professionalism, and multiple responsibilities for reporters....The big driver, of course, is the transformation in the ways that digital technology has changed or ruined business plans, such as advertising, which has been undermined until it's difficult to make the kinds of profits that larger publications need to survive."

American Press Institute Conducts Largest-Ever Journalism Survey (Rob Stott, Associations Now, 8-14-15). American Press Institute conducted a survey of more than 10,000 journalism and communications graduates spanning two generations and hailing from 22 U.S. universities. "News flash: Journalism in 2015 looks lot different than it did 30, 20, and even 10 years ago. Newspapers are still around, but they’re struggling. Content marketing is on the rise. And social media is becoming the go-to news source for all Americans—not just millennials."And 60% of journalism and communications graduates "have a mostly negative view of sponsored content and believe it crosses ethical boundaries.... Still, 50 percent of journalists said their news organization publishes sponsored content."

Bringing the trolls out of the dark: Russian ‘troll’ awarded 1 rouble damages (Joanna Gill, EuroNews, 8-18-15) "Samchuk claims that she and hundreds of other employees in the St Petersburg agency were paid to run several social media accounts, flooding the internet with pro-Putin comments as well as doctoring images that ended up on Russian and Western websites."

Riptide: An oral history of the epic collision between journalism and digital technology, from 1980 to the present (Nieman Lab, September 2013). Three veterans of digital journalism and media — John Huey, Martin Nisenholtz, and Paul Sagan, Fellows at the Joan Shorenstein Center at the Harvard Kennedy School — interviewed dozens of people who played important roles in the intersection of media and technology — from CEOs to coders, journalists to disruptors. Riptide is the result: more than 50 hours of video interviews and a narrative essay that traces the evolution of digital news from early experiments to today. It’s what really happened to the news business.

Digital Journalism: How Good Is It?
(Michael Massing, NY Review of Books, 6-4-15--the first of three articles) "The distinctive properties of the Internet—speed, immediacy, interactivity, boundless capacity, global reach—provide tremendous new opportunities for the gathering and presentation of news and information. Yet amid all the coverage of start-ups and IPOs, investments and acquisitions, little attempt has been made to evaluate the quality of Web-based journalism, despite its ever-growing influence."

‘Farewell, readers’: Alan Rusbridger on leaving the Guardian after two decades at the helm Rusbridger reflects on two decades of sweeping change – from broadsheet to Berliner, Aitken to Snowden, and newsprint to pixels – and recalls his fervent wish when he took the job: “Please, please let me not drop the vase.” Excellent overview of basic changes in the industry.

The decootification of media companies (Jeff Jarvis, Buzz Machine, 8-5-14). Do read this one. "...media companies do not have the stomach, patience, capital, or guts to do the hard work that is still needed to finish turning around legacy media. So they spin them off. What used to be Gannett, Tribune, Scripps, and Belo are now TV companies. What used to be News Corp. and Time Warner are now entertainment companies — companies that might merge not, in my opinion, because that’s such a wonderful deal but because the best path they see to growth is not innovation there either but instead cutting costs and consolidating negotiating power to outmaneuver (with help from legacy telcos) the Netflixes of the future. "

The Economist hosts online debates on the future of news (July 7 to Aug. 3, 2014) (ijnet) What business models will best serve news firms? How important is objectivity in the news industry? Is the power of the press now diminished? And how much does that matter? See related story What is the future of news? (The Economist 7-7-11)

Small Pieces, Loosely Joined: On the End of Big News (Nicco Mele, Nieman Reports, Spring 2013). Fascinating analysis of what's happening to newspapers, and especially to investigative journalism--with some hints of new ways to support it.

Change Starts Small: The Texas Tribune Chooses Efficiency Over Size (Kate Galbraith, Nieman Reports, Spring 2013)

“The Story of a Lifetime” (David L. Marcus, Nieman Reports, Spring 2013) Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory on the Boston marathon bombings, paywalls, misinformation, and social media

Low pay or no pay, but exposure. Discussions about writing for low pay or no pay, partly for the "exposure, " can get fairly heated. Here are a few examples.
A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist—2013 (Global Editor of the Atlantic Magazine digital edition asks Nate Thayer to write a story, for no pay. Say what?? Nate Thayer responds.)
A Day in the Life of a Digital Editor, 2013 (Alexis Madrigal, a senior editor at The Atlantic, responds to Nate Thayer. "The biz ain't what it used to be, but then again, for most people, it never really was." And "You have to want to be jacked into the Internet all day long, every day. This is not the life most journalists imagined when they were looking at 1970s magazines." And "As a rule of thumb, it sucks to take free work from people who are freelancing for a living."
Joe Dator New Yorker cartoon on working "for exposure".
When People Write for Free, Who Pays? (Cord Jefferson, Gawker, 3-8-13)
Artisanal Journalism (Reg Chua, (Re)Structuring Journalism blog, 6-11-12). Chua recommends rethinking three aspects of journalism: information gathering, presentation ("everything from a tweet to a 10,000-word piece, graphics, data visualizations, photo slideshows, documentaries and forms yet to be invented"), and publication ("not just getting it in print/on a show/online, but the entire process of thinking about what news product should be presented, and how. Should you report on politicians’ statements, or create a site that tracks how truthful they are? How much automation/machine-generated content should you embrace? What focus and audience should you aim for?").

The Newsonomics of the shiny, new wrapper (Ken Doctor, Nieman Journalism Lab, 6-21-12). "Publishers are getting more aggressive about repackaging their work into ebooks, iPad magazines, and other new forms, in the hopes of creating something readers will pay for....Consumers aren’t paying just for content; they may not know or care a product’s origin. They are also paying for some sense of discovery and convenience. Credit the iPad, the table-setting, placement-rearranging marvel of our times, for this new thinking. It is making possible reader — and publisher — reassessment of news and magazine product. In a sense, the tablet is just a new container.... news and magazine design never found a metaphor that seemed pleasing for readers. Tablet design, borrowing many of the principles of print, but making use of features print could never support, connects with readers."

Brand-Name Journalists Cross a Vanishing Journalistic Divide (David Carr, NY Times 10-20-10).

Internet con men ravage publishing John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper's Magazine, makes a powerful argument about how fast-talking Internet promoters have fooled publishers and writers into thinking they can make any money publishing online. (Providence Journal blog, 3-12-12). MacArthur quotes from Screened out and isolated (Tyler Brûlé, Fast Lane columnist, Financial Times, 1-20-12). "What Brûlé was describing was the physical manifestation of what the novelist Scott Turow calls 'siloing,' that is, the cordoning off of information and elimination of the haphazard, sometimes random, adjacencies, so vital to learning and, for that matter, romance. Adjacencies such as the story on the lower-left-hand corner of the page adjacent to the less interesting story you happen to be reading. Adjacencies such as the book on the shelf next to the book you were looking for."

Paper Con Man Ravages the Internet Alexis Madrigal's response to John Macarthur's essay attacking the whole enterprise of online journalism (The Atlantic, 3-13-12)

A conversation with entrepreneur and software engineer Marc Andreessen. (video) On the Charlie Rose show, the founder of Netscape talks about how print newspapers are on the way out, to be replaced by a web of Internet interactivity

All Hands On Deck: 4 Editors on the SF Chronicle Implosion (the Daily Anchor Editorial Team)

An extremely expensive cover story — with a new way of footing the bill Zachary M. Seward, Nieman Journalism Lab. Sherri Fink's 13,000-word story about the New Orleans hospital where patients were euthanized in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a New York Times Magazine cover story that is simultaneously available on ProPublica's site, may be "the most expensive single piece of print journalism in years." The new economics of journalism. Investigative journalism is labor-and-brain-intensive! Mother Jones on the same story: Cost of the NYT Magazine NOLA Story Broken Down (Clara Jeffery, Mother Jones 8-28-09)

Barry Diller: ‘The Internet is a miracle … Newsweek is an evolutionary process’ (L.A.Lorek, Poynter Online, 3-14-11). “We are in the very early period of a great revolution,” he said. “Once you can push a button and publish to the world you can go over the top and around all of these systems.” Diller's advice to entrepreneurs: “only get enough money to get it started, give away as little as possible, keep your head down, do not listen or talk to anybody, when it gets out there. Listen to your audience, unless it makes no sense, early audiences don’t always get you,” Diller said. “Keep going on your path. It will either work out gloriously or it will be another failure.”

Brill's secret plan to save the New York Times and journalism itself (Stephen Brill, Romenesko, 11-08)

Content Farms: Why Media, Blogs & Google Should Be Worried (Richard MacManus, NYTimes, 12-13-09). See also Content Mill Demand Media Expands Its Reach -- To More Newspapers! (Erik Sherman, b-net, on race to the bottom, 5-21-10)

Craig Newmark: I Didn't Kill Newspapers, it's an "urban legend" and David Carr Agrees (Beet.TV)

David Simon's Testimony at the Future of Journalism Hearing (David Simon, Real Clear Politics, 5-9-09). Simon says, among other things, "...high-end journalism - that which acquires essential information about our government and society in the first place -- is a profession; it requires daily, full-time commitment by trained men and women who return to the same beats day in and day out until the best of them know everything with which a given institution is contending. For a relatively brief period in American history - no more than the last fifty years or so - a lot of smart and talented people were paid a living wage and benefits to challenge the unrestrained authority of our institutions and to hold those institutions to task. Modem newspaper reporting was the hardest and in some ways most gratifying job I ever had. I am offended to think that anyone, anywhere believes American institutions as insulated, self-preserving and self-justifying as police departments, school systems, legislatures and chief executives can be held to gathered facts by amateurs pursuing the task without compensation, training or for that matter, sufficient standing to make public officials even care to whom it is they are lying or from whom they are withholding information." But it is not the internet that is killing newspapers, says Simon. "...my industry butchered itself and we did so at the behest of Wall Street and the same unfettered, free-market logic that has proved so disastrous for so many American industries. And the original sin of American newspapering lies, indeed, in going to Wall Street in the first place....In Baltimore at least, and I imagine in every other American city served by newspaper-chain journalism, those ambitions were not betrayed by the internet. We had trashed them on our own, years before. Incredibly, we did it for naked, short-term profits and a handful of trinkets to hang on the office wall. And now, having made ourselves less essential, less comprehensive and less able to offer a product that people might purchase online, we pretend to an undeserved martyrdom at the hands of new technology."

The Deal from Hell: A Cautionary Tale Every Publisher Should Read (Peter Cook, Publishing Perspectives, 7-5-11). Guest book review of The Deal from Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers by James O'Shea

The Death of Journalism (Gawker Edition) by Ian Shapira (Washington Post, Outlook, 8-2-09), with follow-up discussion on Tuesday, August 4: Outlook: How Gawker Ripped Off My Story and Why It's Destroying Journalism

Editors Only: The Newsletter of Editorial Achievement (discussing the changing nature of content delivery), sister pub to STRAT: The Newsletter of Print and Online Magazine Publishing Strategy

Disrupted: The Internet and the Press Jay Rosen and Clay Shirky discuss what's happening in journalism after its disruption by technology, conversations sponsored by NYU Journalism/Primary Sources)

8 Industries That Will Sit Out a Recovery. (Rick Newman, US News & World Report). Moody's rates media as one of the industries that won't be climbing back up any time soon. "... Media. It's hard to imagine what else could go wrong for traditional print and broadcast media companies. Even without a recession, newspapers, magazines, and TV and radio broadcasters have been losing their audience to the Internet. At the same time, a crushing downturn in the retail, automotive, and financial industries has led to double-digit cuts in advertising, the biggest source of revenue for many media companies. And there's no historic election, accompanied by millions in political advertising, slated anytime soon to help pick up the slack, as there was in 2008. Many newspapers are in such bad shape that investors have virtually no interest in buying them, at any price, according to Moody's. Magazines are doing so poorly that McGraw-Hill is struggling to find a buyer for BusinessWeek, one of the most venerable titles on the market."

The End of Hand Crafted Content (Michael Arrington, TechCrunch, 12-13-09)

End Times:Can America’s paper of record survive the death of newsprint? Can journalism? (Michael Hirschorn, The Atlantic, January-February 2009) and End Times: A Response from the Times

Enter Austin Post: New online venture seeks to create a 'conversational democracy' (Kevin Brass, Austin Chronicle, 7-10-09, on how "citizen journalism" may be an aggregation of "sloppy bloggers" in a system offering exposure for personal agendas instead of payment for professional journalism).

Five questions publishers need to ask before charging for content, or Pitfalls of the pay wall. "Before they jump into charging for content, news organizations must bypass the 'quality journalism' argument and answer these five questions instead," writes Michele McLellan, and you can read about those five questions on the Knight Digital Media Center website.

Among columnists she thanks for blogging about paid content, which helped her understand the issues: Steve Yelvington (Fatal Assumptions), Steve Outing (Attributor: Will it be used for good or evil?) and Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine The Golden Link, on whether to charge for linking to content. (I don't know if those are the specific blogs she was grateful for, but they are interesting, and take you to those bloggers' sites.)

Gerry Marzorati on the future of long-form narrative

Google CEO Eric Schmidt's Q&A at Newspaper Association of America convention, on advertising, micropayments, and subscriptions (Julie Moos, Poynter Online, and you can listen to the speech)

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations and BoingBoing on Clay Shirky's masterpiece (with links to more Clay Shirky pieces)

How to Save Your Newspaper (Walter Isaacson, Time) and The bell tolls for Time, too (Alan Jacobson, Brass Tacks)

The Intelligence Briefing model of media (Conover on Media, a front-row seat at the final bonfire, 9-23-05)

Lesson from WisconsinWatch: Nonprofit Journalism Isn't Free (Robert Gutsche Jr., Poynter Online, 8-11-09)

Let’s Invent an iTunes for News (David Carr, NY Times, argues for a pay-for-news-by-item business model to save newspapers)

Losing the News: The Future of the News That Feeds Democracy by Alex Jones. "[S]ignificance may not be governed by the clock. The most valuable element in journalism is often enough not an episode that occurred today, yesterday or, horrors, the day before. It’s the creation of a new awareness provided by either months of investigation or relentlessly regular coverage," writes Harold Evans in The Daily Show, his review in the NY Times of this book, which Howard Gardener calls an "authoritative account of why journalism is vital, how it has lost its bearings," and what can be done to reinvigorate this foundation of a democratic society.

Monetize Online (Brass Tacks)

The newspaper business isn't dying, it's evolving (Kirk LaPointe, Vancouver Sun, 5-1-09)

Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable (Clay Shirky)

The Newspaper Suicide Pact (Xark 6-3-09, on "paid content")

Over 60, and Proud to Join the Digerati (James R. Gaines, Preoccupations, NY Times 11-28-09)

**• The Price of Truth (Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery, Mother Jones, Sept/Oct 2009). "The old model, where journalism was heavily subsidized by advertising, is over. The recession has made the divorce faster and more acrimonious, but the knives were already out. And online advertising is turning out to be a harsh mistress....Sure, information wants to be free. Alas, it's not....Reporting takes money." A concise summary of the issues.

Priced to Sell: Is free the future? Malcolm Gladwell's review in the New Yorker of
Chris Anderson’s new book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price. See also $0.00, Virginia Postrel's review of the book in the NYTBook Review.

The Printed Blog ("Publisher Rethinks the Daily" by Claire Cain Miller, NY Times)

Spackman of Times Online, UK, speaks of interweaving journalism and search optimization, counsels against becoming a "traffic tart" (Martin Stabe, Press Gazette, UK)

StreetVibes: Advocating Justice, Building Community (Gregory Flannery on a newspaper with a sense of purpose)

Talk Radio Gets Angrier as Its Revenues Drop (FrumForum on radio hosts who believe that anger is their only path to survival)

TimeSelect Content Freed (Holly M. Sanders, New York Post)

True/Slant: Angling for News Sponsors Howard Kurtz, Media Notes, Washington Post 6-8-09)

True/Slant Tests Another Model Of Web Journalism (Walt Mossberg,WSJ, Personal Technology, 4-8-09)

United, Newspapers May Stand (David Carr, The Media Equation, NY Times 3-8-09)

Urgent Deadline for Newspapers: Find a New Business Plan before You Vanish (Knowledge@Wharton Strategic Management Research Article - Requires free membership)

End Times:Can America’s paper of record survive the death of newsprint? Can journalism? (Michael Hirschorn, The Atlantic, January-February 2009) and End Times: A Response from the Times

U.S. bill seeks to rescue faltering newspapers (Reuters, 3-4-09, on allowing newspapers to become nonprofits)

Web Sites That Dig for News Rise as Watchdogs (Richard Pérez-Peña, NYTimes, 11-17-09, onVoiceofSanDiego.org

Storyful, a startup that started filtering videoclips about the turmoil in Egypt, is partnering with YouTube's CitizenTube, YouTube’s news and politics channel, in an experiment in teamwork to "curate" the news knowledgeably. Read Storyful Now: Egypt in Revolt (Nieman Journalism Lab, 2-4-11)

Will paid content work? Two cautionary tales from 2004 Tom Windsor, Nieman Journalism Lab, 2-10-09

Why Obama should stiff-arm "save the newspapers" legislation Jack Shafer, Slate, on Saving Newspapers From Their Saviours, 9-21-09)

Why iTunes is not a workable model for the newspaper business (Clay Shirky)

Why Small Payments Won’t Save Publishers (Clay Shirky)

Why the End of Newspapers Is Not the End of News (Larry Kramer, The Daily Beast)

You Can't Sell News By the Slice (Michael Kinsley, NY Times opinion page, 2-9-09)

All Hands On Deck: 4 Editors on the SF Chronicle Implosion (more…)

Richard Morgan on the life of the freelance journalist

October 25, 2010

Tags: freelance, journalism

"Freelancing is basically just courtship, but the freelancer-editor relationship is nothing more than friends with benefits," writes Richard Morgan in Seven Years as a Freelance Writer, or, How To Make Vitamin Soup (The Awl, 8-2-10). "The editor likes you because you remind the (more…)

“Mothers: Don’t let your babies grow up to be freelancers"

June 26, 2010

Tags: freelance, journalism

“Mothers: Don’t let your babies grow up to be freelancers,” cracks one journalist, freelancing after leaving a staff job, as quoted by Rebecca Rosen Lum in California Progress Report story Freelance Journalists Suffering in Second Wave of News Media Collapse (more…)

Mystery writer Michael Connelly on newspaper novels

May 29, 2009

Tags: fiction, journalism

In Michael Connelly's latest thriller, The Scarecrow, Connelly's hero Jack McEvoy is forced to take a buyout. What other novels about reporters and reporting does Connelly like? (more…)