Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Newspapers in transition

Is this the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end? Great journalists are leaving the newspaper business in droves, some due to retirement age, some due to changes in ownership. An optimist would say the old-school is being replaced by a new Newspaper Journalism 2.0; pessimists just think it's over.

is the place to keep up with all these changes. Several just today:

In the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a long goodbye column from Editor Doug Clifton, who I worked with for years at the Miami Herald. Today is his last day at the Plain Dealer. A good journalist, who thinks seriously about what will happen to newspapers and journalism: The Work of Journalism, in Whatever Form, is Vital. Says Clifton:
To some - perhaps even to many - newspapers' demise would be no loss. To them, the press is an intrusive, sensational, often malevolent, purveyor of negativism. Worse, many newspapers rake in double-digit profits. The mainstream media, or MSM, as they call it, has become the slur of choice for the critics.
Perhaps the excesses of the few in this business have tainted the reputation of the many. And perhaps the many have, at times, given critics reason to be distrustful.
But an evenhanded review of the work of newspapers over the last 100 years tells another story. No other institution in a democratic society performs their function.

He goes on to list some of the great Pulitzer-Prize winning story projects over the years, and to decry the need for papers to give their work away for free on the Internet:"The Internet doesn't produce the content, it merely distributes it...If you go to Google News or Yahoo News you will find news, but it will have been provided by AP, Reuters, the Washington Post, The Plain Dealer and countless other newspapers."
Food for thought.

Also leaving newspaper journalism this week: The Philadelphia Inquirer's Ann Gordon, who's interviewed in Philadelphia Weekly: "The industry's problems are technology-based and lifestyle-based, and the changes are more profound than any of us want to admit. Newspapers are suffering the pain of their failure to innovate."..."Newspapers will be one of hundreds if not thousands of ways people receive their news. I see print journalists playing an active role less in the breaking of news and more in the analytical side-explaining it."

I looked around to see if there'd been a similar exit column or interview by the Miami Herald's Tom Fiedler, who left a month or so ago: all I found was this story by Rebecca Wakefield in the Miami Beach Sun, which ran in December when the upcoming retirement was announced: Parting Ways. Fiedler:
“I try to resist thinking that the golden age of journalism is behind us,” Fiedler told me this week. “I think it’s simply that things changed. Clearly what drove the change was the readership, when our circulation began to dip and readers began to indicate they were no longer interested in the kind of journalism we all treasure.”

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