Red Sox teammates mob Jon LesterYour obedient editor is on cloud nine this morning, having been on hand in Fenway Park last night to witness a no-hitter by Red Sox lefty Jon Lester. It took 39 years of attendance at hundreds of games in New York, Boston and several other cities in North America, but the thrill was worth the wait. The achievement is particularly notable because 18 months ago Lester was undergoing chemotherapy. His remarkable recovery is a fairy tale of spirit and endurance and this couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

But on to the future of journalism.

Few journalists are better qualified to speak about that topic than Joshua Micah Marshall, founder of TalkingPointsMemo and recent winner of a prestigious George Polk Award for investigative journalism.

In a speech to a recent conference on the future of the Web, Marshall mourned the atmosphere of fear and denial that pervades mainstream media newsrooms and said journalists must prepare themselves to do their jobs very differently. He’s optimistic, though. Professional journalists have become too dependent on professional insiders who manufacture sound bites and offer convenient but predictable analysis. In contrast, the new journalism involves the community directly in the reporting, bringing journalists into close contact with their readers. TalkingPointsMemo actively invited readers into its award-winning work on the Alberto Gonzalez scandal and continues to solicit reader investigation and input for such tasks as building, “a better virtual list of politicians’ stances than anything tabulated by the traditional media or the White House.”


Reading the perspective from overseas, it’s becoming clear that the UK is leading the US in understanding, adapting to and delivering upon the promise of a new kind of journalism. While many American newspaper editors wallow in self-pity, British editors are welcoming readers into the fold, rethinking the role of the investigative journalist and envisioning a brighter future. Editors Weblog interviews Emily Bell, editor-in-chief of guardian.co.uk. She sees bloggers as valuable overseers of journalist practice and believes that journalists must engage more actively with their readers. “The closer you are, the more authentic you are, and the more knowledgeable you can be, then the more purchase you have with the community that will come to you, tell you things and point to your work in certain areas. I think if you don’t have that, in the future as a journalist, you probably don’t have much of a future.”Bell believes newspapers will exist for the foreseeable future but may not be around in 15 years. She accepts this matter-of-factly. She’s optimistic about journalism’s future, even though she sees the profession entering an uneasy period where resources that were once available for investigative projects will be cut while a new model of reporting is still taking shape.Unfortunately, the guardian.co.uk still has to wrestle with the same business challenges as all other newspapers. Press Gazette cites recent comments by the Guardian’s head of editorial development that the site would need “’many millions’” more visitors to sustain the level of investment in journalism it currently makes.”

Sean Dodson of The Guardian looks at community publishing and the risks of newspapers lending their brands to extremist bloggers. He cites the example of The Telegraph‘s MyTelegraph portal, which plays host to many thoughtful blogs, but “is also inhabited by some very unsavoury characters, including a minority of active members of the far right, anti-abortionists, europhobes and members of an anti-feminist ‘men’s movement’. ” Dodson goes on to compare the community-policing model employed by The Telegraph to the gatekeeper role of papers like the Daily Mail, which pre-approves blog entries before posting. In contrast, The Telegraph lets readers flag unsavory material for editors to review manually. It’s clear that all newspapers (at least in the UK) are moving to open up their brands to reader commentary, but there are still no clear standards for policing these new communities (via Editors Weblog).

CEOs Not Suffering as Badly as Shareholders

Alan Mutter looks at CEO pay, which is always a favorite whipping post for disgruntled shareholders. Not surprisingly, a few sinners stand out. Most notable is Robert E. Jelenic, the former CEO of Journal Register Co. (JRC), whose compensation grew 333.2% to $6.3 million despite the company’s near-bankrupt condition this year in the wake of his leadership. Mutter notes that Jelenic’s golden parachute last year amounted to more than half the market value of JRC itself.

Other CEOs who got raises while their companies stumbled include Robert Dercherd of Belo and Mary E. Junck of Lee Enterprises. On the whole, Mutter says, CEO compensation declined 11.7% while shareholders collectively lost more than 35% of their investments in newspaper stocks in 2007.

Business Shorts

  • Looking to gain efficiencies from last month’s giant merger of Thomson Corp. and Reuters Group PLC, the newly combined Thomson Reuters will cut 1,500 jobs, or about three percent of its workforce, an unnamed source told the AP. The source estimated that 140 journalist jobs could go. Like any good news company, Thomson has no plans to announce or comment upon the cutbacks, leaving it to speculation and rumor to discern its actions.
  • Gannett reported operating revenue down 7.7% in April on a 10.4% drop in advertising revenue . Classified advertising was off 20% compared to last year.
  • April revenue at The New York Times Co. slid 2.2%, although circulation revenue was up 3.3%. Classified advertising was cited as the main culprit.
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune Editor Nancy Barnes has been told she will have to cut $2.5 million, or about 10%, from the annual newsroom budget, a Newspaper Guild local official told Editor & Publisher. The paper has recently been reported to be on the brink of bankruptcy, an allegation that management disputes.

And finally…

Mark Hamilton alerts us to this gem of a cover image from The Onion.

Onion cover

Comments

comments

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 20th, 2008 at 7:34 am and is filed under blogging, Business News, BusinessModel, Citizen Journalism, Journalism, Layoffs, NewMedia, Newspapers, OnlineMedia, Solutions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments Off on Envisioning a Bright Future for Journalism

Comments

  1. May 20, 2008 @ 11:56 pm



    Marshall’s point is spot-on. I remember a business-journalism job i had 20 years ago. I had the freedom to wander off for hours scouring local records and court filings in search of a good story. In the waning days of my last publishing gig in the B:B space, it was all about sitting tight and cranking it out. Cranking what out, you ask? “Content.”
    We put flat screen TVs in our office this year. One is tuned to CNN; the other to MSNBC. You see the same coverage and interviews of the same quote-meisters every day. No one goes out and actually seems to button-hole people any more. Most of these quote-meisters are on the network payroll, right?
    Now that’s not print, but the press to produce “stuff,” even with fewer pages, finds us reading the same types of stories with the same types of sources.
    It’s McNuggets for an increasingly intellectually obese population.
    P.S. What an honor to catch that no-hitter. I was on Long Island on business one night in 1996 and couldn’t get any colleagues interested in going to see the Yankees. I considered going by myself but changed my mind. Dwight Gooden no-hit the Mariners that night.
    Arg.

    Posted by Brian Fuller