Saturday, September 24, 2005

More Newsroom Cuts

Now the Mercury News is looking to cut its reporting staff by 15%.


lisa said...

after the Bush revolution all of our news will be supplied by the state, so we journalists might as well prepare now.

ed said...

It's not nearly as neat as that, Lisa. The Bush Administration's shenanigans have little to do with the current technological shift, although these able voles are, indeed, taking advantage of the rather lousy hand that journalists have these days (for example, the wholesale eviction of Helen Thomas from the White House Press Corps).

Like it or not, the journalistic paradigm is changing. More people are getting their new from online conduits. The result being that newspaper subscriptions and, as a result, advertising revenue, is dropping big time. But since the bloggers and the online news sources are, to a grand degree, reliant upon this free content, the question is how long this current relationship will last. Since a majority of the bloggers are doing this gratis, likely on the clock with another job, they can't necessarily be counted upon to do professional work, not while the doctrine of continuous partial attention subsists. They are distracted by the demands of their regular gig. Thus, journalism as a whole (whether practiced adequately be the newspapers or by the new online journalists) faces a rather unfortunate predicament. Little wonder that some enterprising outlets are training "citizen journalists," for better or worse.

If the current situation keeps up and we see more mass-firings from the likes of the New York Times Company, the Chronicle and (in this case), the Mercury News, then I forsee journalism being relegated to book-length exposes as the newspapers drop. Long-form accounts and investigative journalism will always be of interest to some sector of the thinking American public. But at the present time, there is no compelling reason for anyone to read a 300-page investigative opus entirely online. However, they are quite likely to do this during their commute time (should they commute by public transportation) or, if they should commute by car, through some audio conduit, easily downloaded to their car stereos, that offers a compelling alternative to corporate radio.

It's a bit sad to see this happen, but I retain a certain faith that the new paradigm will not yield to soundbytes or halfass gossip. I believe that it will do its job in some form. Unfortunately, there isn't an absolutely identifiable format that's the current clear winner.

We shall see what comes of it.

Frances said...

I remember the day, just a few years ago when I scoffed at the idea people would get their news online. I am a newspaper addict (and am about to go read my morning's Chronicle) But now I read much more on-line than off, and it's clear that's the future. The question is whether newspapers will be able to tap into that and continue to make money. (Of course these chains are still looking to make 15-20% profits a year, that's why they are cutting)

Journalists are different from bloggers -- they have the time and the training to report. Bloggers can't replace them, but can supplement them