Another distinguished voice voices reality: the news business isn't dying, it's changing

Thanks much to my pal Unique for forwarding this very good take (not that it’s new, though) on what’s happening in the newspaper industry. My favorite part:

What I think is occurring is that we news types are mourning our lost autonomy and power. We’re angry that, like everyone else, we’re subject to business and financial pressures. Editorial independence has subtly eroded. Decisions about what topics to cover (health, technology) are increasingly tailored to appeal to advertisers. Splintering media markets have weakened the economic base for newsgathering. In 2005 and 2006, Time magazine cut its news staff by 14 percent, says the Project for Excellence in Journalism; it reckons that NEWSWEEK’s staff is half its 1983 level (though Web hiring has offset some losses). Even if the Journal rebuffs Murdoch, it cannot escape these pressures. It has already put ads on section fronts.

The changes involve more than economics. When I started, print journalism required two basic skills: reporting and writing. Now, journalists are expected to be multimedia utility players, feeding Web sites, posting videos and doing TV. Up to a point, this is valuable: finding new ways to engage and inform. But it’s also time-consuming and detracts from reporting. Just what constitutes journalism is less clear. Hitwise, a survey firm, counts 8,001 news and media Web sites. The largest (Yahoo! News) has only 7 percent of the traffic. The skills that are rewarded are shifting from diligent, curious and clear, to tech-savvy, quick and edgy.

People come to realize the same thing via different paths and and paces. There’s no need to be snarky because of the circuitous route or the lagging acknowledgement. Unless it causes the death of something you love.

In the case of those who love news, realizing what Robert J. Samuelson says in the essay, sooner rather than later, would be a most excellent thing I would think.

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