Saturday, July 11, 2009

Is This the End of Journalism as We Know It?

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I haven't posted here lately because the longer I have been in this biz, the less (I realize) I know. And I haven't felt inspired to write much of anything about domaining. I'm sort of at a domaining crossroads right now.

In addition, in late September, I'll be off to Europe for 10 months; I have been awarded a Fulbright lectureship in my other field: creative writing. So much of my time has been taken up with preparing for my grand adventure. I feel very fortunate, indeed, to have been granted such a special honor.

But I'm not jumping on my blog (after a long absence) just to brag. Over at LLLL.com, Reece Berg has raised a point about traditional journalism that has struck a chord with me. I wrote the following response:

I absolutely agree that traditional journalism is in a sorry state and not just because of the internet. When journalists started giving up objectivity in their reporting, they started down on a slippery slope of presenting personal opinion as news. Yes, there is a place for editorial opinion, but it should be clearly presented as such. Believe it or not, people like their news straight--they like being able to come to their own conclusions about what the news story means to them.

Journalism as a field is definitely is at a serious crossroads; those who adapt to the new reality will survive. There will always be a place for good journalists (also known as "Jack-of-all-trades" because if they don't know much about a topic, they will do their research). However, the actual newspaper structure needs to change to an internet format--and fast.

Yes, I would pay for a subscription to, say, The New York Times and, maybe, my local newspaper, IF I could get my daily fix on a portable internet-enabled device, such as a Kindle. At least I would know that the writers would be vetted and that I wouldn't have to suffer through bad writing, horrid sentence structure, and unclear statements. Except for a few well-funded sites, citizen "journalism" tends to stink. No one wants to pay good writers what they are worth, so citizen journalism sites tend to hire anyone, whether or not they can write well.

To get my subscription $$$, a professional newspaper site would have to do the following:

1. Keep the site simple, free of pop ups, slide across ads, and flashing images, so that it doesn't take forever to load a page. Simple ads would be okay, for I do understand the realities of running a news site.

2. Give me access to their archives for free or at a reduced cost.

3. Offer other goodies, such as the book review and entertainment sections: ONLINE!

4. Make navigation as easy as possible, and also offer instant indexing of important news stories.

5. Most important, give me back my objective news stories, and don't tell me how to think. Let me digest the news the way I want. If I want someone to "analyze" a situation for me, then I'll go to CNN or MSNBC or some other political wonk site. For breaking news, I'll go to Twitter's Trending Topics (which often breaks news hours before CNN).
Newspapers have just been too slow in reacting to modern times. By not being proactive (by placing their internet ducks in a row, say, about 1990), they are now scrambling to keep up with the flow of internet news, much of it poorly written.

In the end, quality will prevail, but it may take a few years for the Old Gray Lady and her ilk to pick themselves up and adjust to an internet world.

By the way, as a side note, I have noticed that domain bloggers often just regurgitate what other domainers and, yes, what real journalists post online. Moreover, I have seen more bad grammar and creative spelling on domainer blogs than anywhere else. I figure that if a blogger doesn't take care of the basics, why should I find his or her posts credible? Why should I believe that the blogger's research methodology is any better than his/her sloppy spelling and sentence structure?
As an older person, I do lament the end of newspapers, the thump of my daily newspaper against the door, and the smell of newsprint.

But nothing ever stays the same, and I hope I never become the kind of old person who simply can't adjust to The New Realities of news delivery.

Besides, once newspapers go online, just think of all the trees that will be saved. The nostalgia of newsprint notwithstanding, I must admit: getting sheaths of papers delivered daily to my door does seem highly inefficient and cumbersome.

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