Yes, journalists deserve subsidies too
So say Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, writing at washingtonpost.com. They quote President Obama’s comments to newspaper editors who asked about the industry’s crisis:
“I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context,” he said, “that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding.”
McChesney and Nichols add:
“What’s notable about Obama’s response to the question, posed during an Oval Office interview with editors from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade, was his consciousness that the problem is not that print is fading.
“The problem is that newspaper newsrooms, once packed with reporters, are disappearing, and neither broadcast nor digital media are filling the void.”
McChesney, of UIUC, and Nichols, who writes for the Nation, are founders of the media reform organization, Free Press. “Saving newspapers may be impossible,” they write. “But we can save journalism. Step one is to begin ways for enlightened public subsidies to provide a competitive and independent digital news media…”
Read it all here: Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, at washingtonpost.com,
From The New York Times:
“Berlin plans a new kind of copyright to protect online journalism in an attempt to level the playing field with companies like Google.”
The Times says Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is promoting “a novel way to help embattled newspaper and magazine publishers manage the transition to a digital future.”
It’s called “ancillary copyright” or “Leistungsschutzrecht,” which the Citizen’s Media Law Project compares to the copyright protections for movie and music publishers in Europe.
The Times quotes the corporate counsel for the German Newspaper Publishers Association, singing a familiar refrain:
“Freedom of information is important. But quality journalism costs money. There is no fundamental right to information for free on the Internet.”
Newspaper Division members are needed to review research papers submitted for the 2010 Southeast Colloquium, a great opportunity to provide feedback to researchers who may be making their first conference submissions.
Newsday.com will start charging $5 a week for access to most of its online content. It goes without saying, perhaps, that when the biggest suburban newspaper in the country — and the 11th largest overall in US — makes such a decision, both subscriber-model skeptics and boosters will be watching closely.
Newsday managing editor Debby Krenek sees the move as a good fit for Long Island:
“We are excited about this model because in addition to a unique ability to immediately reach about 75 percent of Long Island households, we believe the hyper-local approach is right for Long Island.”
It all begins next Wednesday (Oct. 28). Sounds plausible, really, given the smart tabloid’s enormous weekday circulation, reported at nearly 400,000. But will what works in an unusual news-consumer ecosystem such as Long Island — densely populated, comparably well-educated, quite wealthy — work elsewhere?
Our communications and journalism graduates are apparently finding the worst job market in decades, but I’m amazed how the View All Jobs listing at the indispensable www.journalismjobs.com continues to hover around 600. For those of you who check this listing as obsessively as I, you know that the total number dropped to 300-400 levels in the dark post-9/11 days. Six hundred doesn’t look bad. One big difference between then and now is proliferation of new media jobs, a point echoed somewhat in an intriguing post on the New York Times’ Bill Keller at the excellent Nieman Journalism Lab blog. Not scientific, I know … but I’m just saying.
Update: In addition to the 100-page PDF version referred to below, CJR has posted a Web edition of the report, an executive summary, and a growing number of response essays with public commentary. The Web version allows making direct links to individual pages, including these with a reference to colleges and universities already doing independent reporting and a recommendation that more schools become ongoing sources of local, state, specialized subjejct, and accountability news reporting.
As the news business continues to confront fundamental economic challenges, a report, released on Oct. 20, 2009, by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, proposes new steps for maintaining a vibrant, independent press, with special emphasis on local “accountability journalism” that is essential to civic life.
“The Reconstruction of American Journalism” report, which the announcement calls “cautiously optimistic,” was written by Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post, now a professor at Arizona State’s Cronkite School, and Columbia professor Michael Schudson.
A newspaper (and “emerging” new media) note from the report’s “Where do we go from here?” section:
The restructuring of newspapers, which remain central to the future of local news reporting, is an uphill battle. Emerging local news organizations are still small and fragile, requiring considerable assistance—as we have recommended—to survive to compete and collaborate with newspapers…
Among the questions Downie and Schudson discuss:
- What Is Happening to Independent News Reporting by Newspapers?
- Will This Contraction Continue Until Newspapers and Their News Reporting No Longer Exist?
- Why Can’t Television and Radio Make Up for the Loss of Reporting by Newspapers?
- How Are Colleges and Universities Contributing to Independent News Reporting?
- What Needs to Be Done to Support Independent News Reporting?
Here’s a hasty, late-night summary of their recommendations:
- Not a “bailout” for newspapers, but federal authorization for “any independent news organization substantially devoted to reporting on public affairs to be created as or converted into a nonprofit entity or a Low-profit Limited Liability Corporation serving the public interest, regardless of its mix of financial support, including commercial sponsorship and advertising.”
- More support by philanthropists and foundations for news organizations that have demonstrated “a substantial commitment to public affairs and accountability reporting.”
- More public funding of “significant local news reporting” by public radio and television.
- Operation or hosting of news organizations by universities, which would become “on-going sources of local, state, specialized subject, and accountability news reporting as part of their educational missions.”
- Creation of a national Fund for Local News administered by state Local News Fund Councils and supported by moneys such as FCC fees and licenses, including money from Internet service providers.
- More effort by journalists, nonprofits and governments to provide better access to public information.
It’s been floating around the net for almost a month, but if you haven’t seen it and need an infographic to make clear the state of the traditional newspaper biz to anyone, try this picture from Mint.com, a financial-management website. The original is 1100×2001 pixels, if you’re counting, big enough to see the sad details.
Extra points to the copydesk veterans who catch the biggest error in the multi-part graphic, or for adding comments to this post to point out specific pages at NAA, Bloomberg, or elsewhere, with the graphic’s source statistics.
The accompanying blog post is here, with discussion, including at least one eagle-eyed reader’s comment on a “do the math!” error of the sort we try to impress on beginning reporters and editors:
If you don’t mind the distraction of discouraging news, you might use the graphic as a math-literacy teaching tool, with a hat-tip to Joe Murphy of the Denver Post for catching the error. Not much of a silver lining, but…
Loosely related (and some more-optimistic) items, rather than have an depressing block of white space next to the long, tall depressing graphic:
- Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy (Oct. 2009) report: Informing Communities Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age
- Dan McDonough Jr. and Alan Bauer (May 2009) in The Christian Science Monitor, A newspaper business model that’s working.
- Paul Starr in The New Republic (March 2009), Goodbye to the Age of Newspapers (Hello to a new era of corruption)
- Walter Isaacson (Feb. 2009) in Time, How to Save Your Newspaper.
- Eric Alterman (2008), in The New Yorker, on Out of Print: The Death and Life of an American Newspaper.
- NAA Presstime Blog
The chief executive of the Associated Press, Tom Curley, is signaling — or bluffing about, depending on whom you believe — a harder line against unauthorized use of AP-produced content. A new AP news registration and tracking system called AP3P (for “Protect, Point, and Pay”), he says, will attempt to manage third-party use of AP content:
Participation in the News Registry would discourage unauthorized exploitation of news content by third parties and promote uses that benefit participating news publishers. Implementation of digital protocols that convey rules pertaining to access and use of published news content would enable publishers to pursue individual and collective licensing opportunities.
But not everyone’s buying what Curley’s selling. Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch essentially accuses the (sometimes controversial) head of the ailing wire service of positioning his company for online right negotiations:
What’s really behind all the bluster is that the AP is in the midst of renegotiating a new licensing deal with Google, and is using vague public threats to try to get more money out of them. It’s really kind of sad. The AP is just so desperate for cash as its revenues begin to fade that it doesn’t know whether to brandish a stick or a carrot. Just the day before, Curley put out a trial balloon to see if search engines like Google would be willing to pay extra to get news delivered 20 to 30 minutes faster.
What do you think?
Dec.4 is the deadline for SouthEast Colloquium panel proposals and research papers, with the Newspaper Division among the participants.
The event will be March 11-13 at the UNC School of Journalism & Mass Communication in Chapel Hill.
The new LeadTime also covers the 2009 Boston convention and previews next year’s gathering in Denver.
The ‘save journalism’ and ‘save newspapers’ debate
Is this a ‘dying industry’ or not?
by Bob Stepno… A Summer 2009 collection of news and blog pieces on the “future of news” and “newspaper bailout” debates and related issues… Originally posted in Bob’s old AEJMC Newspaper Division blog.
[Fall 2009 revisions to this July list will be highlighted in green next to the original item, such as the note from Jeff Jarvis below, or they can be added as comments.]
Don’t let the title fool you… There’s inspiration and a hint of optimism in Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2009 commencement address at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism: Welcome to a dying industry, journalism grads
Next, from Jane Singer, in an AEJMC discussion of the future of journalism & mass communication: one blue-sky scenario of how the not-too-distant future might look for our graduates. (Updated link & info: Since my original post, Jane’s essay has won an AEJMC prize.)
Save the separation of press and state, by David Carr, NY Times
In Congress, no love lost for newspapers, Dana Milbank column in Washington Post
Laws That Could Save Journalism by Bruce W. Sanford and Bruce D. Brown in The Washington Post
“A Newspaper Bailout” by Adam Ross in the Post back in February, describing President Nicholas Sarkozy’s plan to aid the French press.
They Pay for Cable, Music and Extra Bags. How about News? by Richard Perez-Pena and Tim Arango, NYTimes.
Sen. John Kerry’s opening remarks as chairman of Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet’s hearing on “The Future of Journalism.” Also from hearing, Arianna Huffington‘s testimony.
Video and transcripts from the “Free Press Summit” sponsored by the Knight Foundation.
Duke University’s non-profit media conference, including Penelope Muse Abernathy’s paper, “A Nonprofit Model for The New York Times?” — which inspired this follow-up in the New Yorker. And more about the conference at The Nonprofit Road.
“Life after newspapers,” by Michael Kinsley.
“The American Press on Suicide Watch,” by Frank Rich.
The newspaper crisis discussed at Princeton event, from NewJerseyNewsroom.com, a site founded when a bunch of journalists got together at a public library and decided to “create a news site — unlike any other — to address the growing journalism void.”
Scott Rosenberg, “How charging for articles could hobble the future of journalism.”
“First, stop the lawyers,” by Jeff Jarvis, Buzz Machine.
I now say that there isn’t a crisis. That’s not what I used to say. Indeed, one of my mistakes in this debate has been accepting the assumption that there was one and allowing the debate to start there: “How are you going to save journalism from the scourge of your damned internet?”
Instead, the discussion should start here: “Look at all the new opportunities there are to gather and share news in new ways, to expand and improve it, to change journalism’s relationship with its public and make it collaborative, to find new efficiencies and lower costs and thus to return to profitability and sustainability.”
(Back to the earlier list…)
Two big ones, saved for the end:
From “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable” by Clay Shirky
special cases. Many of these models will rely on amateurs as
researchers and writers. Many of these models will rely on sponsorship
or grants or endowments instead of revenues. Many of these models will
rely on excitable 14 year olds distributing the results. Many of these
models will fail. No one experiment is going to replace what we are now
losing with the demise of news on paper, but over time, the collection
of new experiments that do work might give us the journalism we need.”
From The Elite Newspaper of the Future by Philip Meyer, last fall in American Journalism Review.
The now-emeritus UNC professor suggests it’s o.k. for newspapers to give up on “selling everything to everybody.” Instead, he says they should focus on being trusted, responsible sources of evidence-based public affairs news and analysis, aimed at what the sociologists call “opinion leaders” — what Phil calls “well-educated news junkies.”
hybrid content: analysis, interpretation and investigative reporting in
a print product that appears less than daily, combined with constant
updating and reader interaction on the Web.”