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The Death of Journalism?

December 4th, 2009 by 
PK

Are we witnessing the death of journalism, as suggested by the Washington Post's Michael Gerson?

The issue boils down to how you define journalism.  If journalism- in the mold of the traditional magazine and newspaper journalism- is dying, is that the end of news?  Tough questions, for sure, but what is the goal of media?  To train journalists?

If so, we've covered that due to Felix Salmon's and Ezra Klein's think-pieces on the subject whether journalism school is worth it.  But let's dig in!

The Death of Journalism: will it follow the newspaper's decline?

For future generations: these are 'newspapers'.

Will News Survive?

News will of course survive. 

One of the main issues which has recently become apparent is the loss of a readership base for many publications.  If traditional media powerhouses like the New York Times are hurting, perhaps their readership has declined due to a disagreement with the style of news reporting in the Times, or the Times is incorrectly adapting to changing trends like the increase in internet news readership.

The internet is also relevant when it comes to media companies which aren't having money problems, like News Corporation.  Rupert Murdoch, who's News Corporation bought the Wall Street Journal in mid-2007, has been in the news recently threatening to pull free access (especially from Google) to Wall Street Journal articles.  In fact, the article that prompted this digression from my normal personal finance writing was featured recently in the Journal and written by the CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt.

Schmidt seems to be trying to bury the hatchet with Murdoch in the piece, which discusses revenue sharing with the news content providers Google aggregates..  He looks ahead to the near future, to a time when people use their ridiculously fast internet on mobile devices to browse newspaper stories.

The Death of Journalism: Can It Be Saved??

Let the people decide.  Not all newspapers are hurting, there are some newspapers with a critical mass so large they will probably survive longer regardless of the trends in the broader industry.  Such is the impact of choice.  For your reference, the highest circulation newspapers (in the United States) are:

  1. The Wall Street Journal
  2. USA Today
  3. The New York Times
  4. Los Angeles Times
  5. The Washington Post

While 3 through 5 may have rumors swirling, they will exist in some form for a long time.  And the top two don't seem to have the same money rumors.  Is journalism going to die?  Probably not, but a lot of the lower quality journalism is due to be culled.  It's economics applied to the news, a little creative destruction in an industry that has become bloated.  It's a good thing for the industry, and efforts to bail out newspapers should be resisted (sorry, Representative Waxman)- for much bigger reasons than the loss of neutrality which comes from government funds.

Will journalism survive?  Are we witnessing the death of journalism?

Don't Quit Your Day Job...

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