From Wikipedia comes this definition:
Journalism is a method of inquiry and literary style used in social and cultural representation. It serves the purpose of playing the role of a public service machinery in the dissemination and analysis of news and information. Emphasis mine.
Make a note the dissemination and analysis of news and information. You will see this again.
From the Free Dictionary comes this definition of Journalism
1. The collecting, writing, editing, and presenting of news or news articles in newspapers and magazines and in radio and television broadcasts.
2. Material written for publication in a newspaper or magazine or for broadcast.
3. The style of writing characteristic of material in newspapers and magazines, consisting of direct presentation of facts or occurrences with little attempt at analysis or interpretation.
4. Newspapers and magazines.
5. An academic course training students in journalism.
6. Written material of current interest or wide popular appeal.
Some of the most vocal proponents of Journalism’s Demise are Advertisers, PR Firms, and the Social Media Loons.
What follows is a brief explanation of why folks think Journalism is dying.
Companies desire to sell you stuff from crayons to cars, which created Marketing which begat Ad Agencies aka Advertisers which create and place Ads, which begat PR Firms, to polish awareness and crisis manage companies reputations who step in it, and with the internet, begat Social Media Firms, whose purpose seems to be the bastard children of Advertisers and PR Firms one ‘like’,’tweet’ and ‘post’ at a time.. Biblical for sure.
News Media outlets, Newspapers, Magazines, Radio and Television created their businesses by selling space to Advertisers to place Ads next to their news. This was for the most part a comfortable arrangement as there were circulation audits, to tell Advertisers how many subscriptions, single purchases, and geographical area covered. Newspapers and Magazines never paid the bills with subscription revenue. Advertisements and Classified Ads were what paid the bills and supported Journalists. Craigslist destroyed the Classified Ad business, and the web is gutting the Advertising business. Companies are creating their own websites, to go directly to consumers.
Newspapers, Magazines, Radio and Television have websites now, and are still trying to use Ads to support their businesses. There are online subscriptions but those are failing abysmally as well as they did offline. Despite the fact that auditing circulation on the web(page views) is much more precise and faster. That circulation in some cases amounts to millions of page views per month, and with the exception of Television and some Radio, newspapers and magazines could not support printing and delivering a million copies. CPM or Cost per Thousand is/was the benchmark in determining advertising cost. The internet is driving this into the ground.
The nature of what constitutes publication has changed radically with the rise of the web. Publication on the web is only a few keystrokes away. (hell if you are here without an Ad Blocker you can see the Google Ads in the sidebars. I can say that I am not an Advertiser Supported Publication as the clicks do not cover my hosting or internet connection bills. I do carry the Ads as I am interested in what Google determines is relevant advertising against my postings which is what Google’s primary sales pitch is. I laugh a lot when I see some of the stuff determined to be relevant.) moving on….
And you ask, what does this have to do with Journalism? It is all about money to pay journalists.
There are 3 main causes of the cry of Journalism’s Death. In no particular order;
1) Newspapers were one of the first businesses to network, with the creation of the AP and UPI Wire services. Yes, it was a wire service with dedicated printers called teletypes, that took local news reports and ‘broadcast’ them to the subscribers. This service allowed local news outlets to reprint this information. Made the papers bigger with more space to sell ads. When you surf to various news sites you may notice the same stories. This is know as churnalism.
Churnalism is a form of journalism in which press releases, wire stories and other forms of pre-packaged material are used to create articles in newspapers and other news media in order to meet increasing pressures of time and cost without undertaking further research or checking. The neologism “churnalism” has been credited to BBC journalist Waseem Zakir who coined the term in 2008.
Same deal, content to place ads against. If you can cut and paste ‘news’ you don’t need a journalist. if your content management system supports it, you can script it, not needing anybody to cut and paste.
2) Employment Prospects From High Talk comes this:
Some of the startling nuggets from the report:
Newsrooms are at their lowest employment levels since 1978 – down 30% from its employment peak in 2000 and the industry as a whole has less than 40,000 jobs. To put that number in perspective that means that in the last 13 years 1 out of every 3 journalists has lost their jobs.
Forty percent of the content on local TV news is now sports, weather and traffic. An indicator of this move away from produced stories is CNN. The cable channel slashed its produced news packages by 50% from 2007 to 2012. Cable news networks as a whole reduced “live” reporting by 30% during the same period. This means fewer “news stories” and more talking heads discussing what used to be light filler news: weather, traffic conditions and sports scores.
TIME magazine remains the only mainstream news magazine left publishing. It was forced to cut its already depleted editorial staff by another 5% earlier this year.
The ratio of public relations professionals to journalists has grown significantly. In 1980, there was 1.2 PR officials for every reporter. In 2008, that ratio had grown to 3.6 to 1 and Pew noted “the gap has likely widened since.”
News organizations are losing the fight for digital advertising to technology companies like Google and Facebook. An irony that must be a bitter pill for news organizations to swallow in that both Google and Facebook produced nearly zero-content and sell advertising around the content produced by others.
Source High Talk
Bonus Link: Pew Research Center Report
Disclosure: the above was a cut and paste job
3)Folks are spending less time reading news. From Pew Research comes this:
Notably, a 2012 Pew Research national poll found members of the Silent generation (67-84 years old) spending 84 minutes watching, reading or listening to the news the day before the survey interview. Boomers (48-66 years old), did not lag far behind (77 minutes), but Xers and Millennials spent much less time: 66 minutes and 46 minutes, respectively.
The truly troubling trend for the media is that Pew Research surveys give little indication that news consumption increases among members of the younger age groups as they get older. For example, in 2004 Xers reported following the news about as often as they did in 2012 (63 minutes versus 66 minutes). The eight-year trend for Millennials was equally flat (43 minutes versus 46 minutes).
Source Pew surveys of audience habits suggest perilous future for news
Newspapers no longer run their own advertising departments as management is preferring to out source it to third party ad serving networks whose reputations for fraud and abuse is just beginning to come to light. This will require another third party firm to audit these figures lowering revenue to the sites. Let alone the privacy implications by third parties. For those of you who think that out sourcing is a good idea just google Call Center Hell
Media Ownership Conglomerates further reduce the need for journalists as reporters working for them share news like the wire services, but without the subscription costs.
The Social Media Marketeers/PR Flacks/Ad Men insist on turning journalists into brand stenographers, with Native Advertising(which are basically press releases to look like news)
Despite the drop in viewership, cut and paste news, privacy violations, the ad dollars keep flowing.
I mentioned that you would see this phrase again: the dissemination and analysis of news and information.
The dissemination is not a problem, with cut and paste and push button publishing. The analysis of news and information, requires thought and boots on the ground.
Where newspapers could shine is in the area of context. Who What and When can be blurted out in 140 characters, but Why requires much more work. Newspapers and other other News outlets have a vast institutional memory in their archives which can be leveraged to provide the Why, but that would require a commitment to News in service to the community regardless of size.
Journalism is not dead.It is in danger, as employment figures show. You are just not going to see it from Major Media sites. What we could use is an Andrew Carnegie for digital journalism.
What we do have is a direction as posted by Katharine Viner, deputy editor of the Guardian.
The rise of the reader: journalism in the age of the open web
P.S. This is so good I think I want to bear her children.
NOTE: This posting was written in response to a Posting by my buddy George over at High Talk. Yeah he is a PR guy, but he is not just a PR guy.