Forum: Is Journalism Dead?

The Watcher’s Council

Every week on Monday morning, the Council and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum with short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture or daily living. This week’s question: Is Journalism Dead?

The Independent Sentinel: If journalism isn’t dead, it’s critically wounded. People are going to blogs more-and-more for their information out of desperation.

Journalists by-and-large are no longer reporting the news, they are manipulating it.

They aren’t journalists any longer, they are commentators, inventors of the news and political operatives. They no longer serve as watchdogs and they aren’t embarrassed by that fact.

Journalists who don’t go along are brought into line or they are out the door.

Brian Williams is NBC’s Walter Mitty, but there are far more dangerous posers out there who are transforming the way Americans think, when they are not dumbing them down that is.

Dan Rather is still revered.

We accept all these liars and there is no accountability when they lie.

Simply Jews: Journalism as a profession isn’t dead and will never be dead. As any profession it requires professional education, extensive support (both on the ground and in the back office, including professional fact checking and, not to be forgotten nowadays, legal support). The tools and the means do change with time and technology progress, but it doesn’t mean that citizens’ journalism will be ever able to fully replace the professional one. At the best it will serve as a watchdog and as a complementary tool, but not as a replacement.

As for cases of sloppy or politically (or otherwise) skewed journalism: these are probably inevitable, as long as the live people, with all their conflicting motivations and all their strange impulses continue to work in the field. Why should, to take one example, Brian Williams signify the end of the journalism, when we had a much earlier example of Walter Duranty? And, not being a scholar of journalism history, I bet that such examples go many years back, way before Duranty. Rotten apples are an inevitable presence in any bushel of apples. And the fact that cases like these are discovered and aired by their fellow journalists is the best warranty of the general health of that profession. It is a keeper.

JoshuaPundit: Journalism itself isn’t dead, but it’s become rare and more often than not an unpaid (or poorly paid) pursuit. The process started, I think, when the Left took over most of the major journalism schools and having the proper ideology became increasingly important when it came to getting hired. And as the Left began increasingly using news as political propaganda at institutions they controlled like the New York Times and the Associated Press wire services, which allow ‘reporters’ to simply rewrite whatever these organs put out and disperse it without actually questioning it or investigating it further.

It was the Left’s control of most of the mainstream media that led to alternative channels like FOX, the conservative blogosphere and talk radio. Would Rush Limbaugh have 23 million people listening to him every day if the major newspapers and the alphabet networks on TV were actually practicing journalism? If they hadn’t been caught in so many deliberate lies and misstatements? And the practice has never stopped.

There is still a market for journalism… in fact, I think people are hungry for it. But the Left isn’t going to give up its megaphone any time soon, nor do I see proper standards of journalism or a differentiation between news reporting and commentary emerging in the near term.

GrEaT sAtAn”S gIrLfRiEnD: Gotta go with Mikey G on this here topic

What difference does this make? For many conservatives, the “mainstream media” is an epithet. Didn’t the Internet expose the lies of Dan Rather? Many on the left also shed few tears, preferring to consume their partisanship raw in the new media.

Most cable news networks have forsaken objectivity entirely and produce little actual news, since makeup for guests is cheaper than reporting. Most Internet sites display an endless hunger to comment and little appetite for verification. Free markets, it turns out, often make poor fact-checkers, instead feeding the fantasies of conspiracy theorists from “birthers” to Sept. 11, 2001, “truthers.” Bloggers in repressive countries often show great courage, but few American bloggers have the resources or inclination to report from war zones, famines and genocides.

The democratization of the media — really its fragmentation — has encouraged ideological polarization. Princeton University professor Paul Starr traced this process recently in the Columbia Journalism Review.

After the captive audience for network news was released by cable, many Americans did not turn to other sources of news. They turned to entertainment. The viewers who remained were more political and more partisan. “As Walter Cronkite prospered in the old environment,” says Starr, “Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann thrive in the new one. As the diminished public for journalism becomes more partisan, journalism itself is likely to shift further in that direction.”

Cable and the Internet now allow Americans, if they choose, to get their information entirely from sources that agree with them — sources that reinforce and exaggerate their political predispositions.

And the whole system is based on a kind of intellectual theft. Internet aggregators (who link to news they don’t produce) and bloggers would have little to collect or comment upon without the costly enterprise of newsgathering and investigative reporting.

The old-media dinosaurs remain the basis for the entire media food chain. But newspapers are expected to provide their content free on the Internet. A recent poll found that 80 percent of Americans refuse to pay for Internet content.

There is no economic model that will allow newspapers to keep producing content they don’t charge for, while Internet sites repackage and sell content they don’t pay to produce.

Professional journalism is not like the buggy-whip industry, outdated by economic progress, to be mourned but not missed. This profession has a social value that is currently not reflected in its market value.

The Right Planet: Is Journalism dead? At first glance, it certainly looks that way. But, to be fair, there are some who attempt to do honest journalism (former CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson comes to mind). But they appear to be a dying breed.

So just what is journalism? As one who studied journalism in college, I was taught to simply ask the who, what, why, where, when and how, minus the editorializing. I’ve long been of the opinion the major networks (i.e. ABC, CBS, NBC, etc.) abandoned journalism long ago, replacing it with political advocacy masquerading as journalism–specifically, shilling for “progressive” causes and the Democrats. I’ve heard people on the right, and even the left (see Kirsten Powers), refer to the major news networks as “state-run media.” That says it all, if you ask me. So much for a free press, huh! I’ve noticed, at least in my own experience, that the mere act of simply asking the who, what, why, where, when and how is enough to send a number of leftist political advocates masquerading as journalists into an apoplectic fit. It’s as if many so-called journalists have merely become “narrative readers” shilling for all things progressive. Anything deviating from the leftist narrative is ridiculed, mocked, dismissed, marginalized, demonized, etc.

Syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, Jr., who writes for CNN, recently came out and unambiguously stated he believes there is a strong bias at the major networks (including CNN) that favors Democrats, while constantly demonizing Republicans. As far as what can be done to remedy the situation, I’m a big fan of competition. There’s a new news network called One America News Network (OANN) that appears to be trying to do some honest journalism, separating editorial content from reporting. I wish them success. I think we need more OANN’s right now. The leftist leanings of many so-called news organizations is undeniable, in my opinion. And those who would state otherwise are simply being disingenuous, or suffering from a severe case of denial.

The Glittering Eye: Journalism is alive and well. It’s committed on a regular basis by our very own Tom of Virginia Right! and Greg of Rhymes With Right. However, there are a number of aspects of journalism as it has been practiced that are extinct, on life support, or endangered that include:

– the 5Ws style of reporting
– beat reporters
– foreign bureaus
– copy writers
– big city dailies
– newspaper conglomerates financed with debt

The 5Ws style of reporting (who, what, where, when, why) has been considered obsolete for a generation. It has been replaced with the “point of view” style–something that used to be eschewed as editorialization. If you find it difficult to tell the difference between the news section and the opinion section that’s why. Only the largest newspapers have foreign bureaus anymore. They’ve been replaced with foreign stringers or the wire services and I hold that responsible for the very low quality of the reporting about what’s going on outside our borders. Beat reporters, too, are becoming increasingly rare.

The big noise in newspaper writing today is the automation of writing routine stories. Basically, copy writers and, largely, editors are becoming things of the past. They’ll be replaced by a computer program.

Big city dailies have collapsing for the last half century. In 1960 Chicago had a dozen different daily newspapers. Now it has two and those are both parts of large media conglomerates.

Something I’ve been predicting for some time is the decline of the debt-financed newspaper conglomerate. For thirty years we saw newspaper after newspaper gobbled up by one conglomerate or another, the purchase financed with debt, the newspapers themselves saddled with the debt, in essence paying for their own purchase, and the conglomerate taking cash out of the deal. It sounds like a good plan until you factor in the competition newspapers are getting from the Internet in general and Craiglist in particular. Nowadays the margins are so slim in the newspaper business it’s hard for the newspapers to service their debt. Small highly local newspapers are still doing okay. They don’t have the debt problems and their owners don’t expect to lead lifestyles of the rich and famous, much as stereotype of the newspaper business has been for over a century, when Joe Pulitzer invented the newspaper conglomerate.

These are all subjects I’ve written about from time to time over at The Glittering Eye. Before he landed a job as a lawyer my dad worked as an editorial writer for the old St. Louis Star and the insights he conveyed to me about the nature of the newspaper business seventy-five years ago have given me an interest in and a distinct viewpoint on the developments in the business today.

Well, there you have it!

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