Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

Does news matter? Let’s hope so

Posted on | January 22, 2008 | No Comments

We interrupt coverage of Heath Ledger’s death to bring you David Simon’s opinion in the Washington Post today, Does News Matter to Anyone Anymore?
It’s a fine essay from an ex-reporter, whose most painful comparison is to ask whether American newspapers can be cmopared to “the inert monopolists of early 1970s Detroit, who thought that Pacers and Gremlins and Chevy Vegas were response enough to Japanese and European automaking superiority.”

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No Responses to “Does news matter? Let’s hope so”

  1. Lou Covey
    January 22nd, 2008 @ 10:29 pm

    It’s a pretty essay, but not accurate. Newsrooms have been historically filled with young men and women, some who go on to make a career in newspapers, but many, many others go on to other more lucrative careers.
    Hollywood has a long been a landing place for newsroom evacuees because, well, it pays a lot better. Good writers can always make a good living and newsrooms are a good place to weed out bad writers. If you can’t make it in a newsroom you generally can’t make a career of writing. There are other places where good journalists can ply their trade and the internet will be one of them one day very soon, just as Cronkite and Brinkley transferred their skill from newspapers to radio to TV.
    News is still important, but it has to be made relevant to the readers. News about the world is readily available on the web now, or even television. what isn’t available is good local coverage that takes into account the concerns of the community. It may not be “All the President’s Men” quality, but it still important.

  2. wretch
    January 23rd, 2008 @ 12:18 am

    I mostly agree with Lou through the middle of his final graf, but then he lost me.

    National/world coverage may be available, but from a quality standpoint, it’s miserable. Local coverage is worse.

    The fact is that many professional journalists are bad practitioners of journalism. Maybe if they were better, people would find newspapers relevant.

    The pretense that news was a mission was rarely more than that — a pretense. But it provided some cover for some brave writers. Now news is merely a P&L operation, and that’s what we got — the cheapest thing that people will still be willing to buy — and the P&L guys went over the line — newspapers are now cheap crap, and fewer and fewer people are willing to buy crap.

    Yes, advertising is going away, but that doesn’t excuse the debasement of the product.

    It’s painful to say it, but maybe newspapers should die.

    …If only they could take TV news shows with them.

    Brian Santo

  3. Loring Wirbel
    January 23rd, 2008 @ 8:56 am

    Lou, I agree that local is the best differentiator, but here’s an important question regarding Santo’s comment: Who pays for maintaining useful national/world coverage? The Economist can’t subsidize the entire literate world knowing the status of Kenya Kikuyus, for example. There are always plenty of bloggers willing to tell us for free what they think of Darfur, Guatemala, what have you, but if there’s a new skirmish breaking out in the Ogaden Desert (which these days may well be aided and paid for by U.S. forces), what news organization will pay to have a reporter on the ground in the Ogaden? Reuters and AP are falling apart, the big newspapers and networks are ending foreign bureaus, and there is not an equivalent Internet subsidization source. And somehow, people need to be educated that too much in their diet, of paparazzi chasing Britney around, is BAD for them, and they really DO need to know about Ogaden if they’re going to be good global citizens. Or maybe no one cares about being a good global citizen, which was David Simon’s underlying comment.

  4. wretch
    January 23rd, 2008 @ 5:42 pm

    And while the vast majority of bloggers deserve the derision they get, there are a number of them out there doing better journalism than many professional news organizations.

    They’re doing it by going to the desert, by going to town hall meetings, by getting the documents and reading them and reporting on what is actually in them.

    I.F. Stone tried to demonstrate there was a difference between what politicians say, and what they do, and all you have to do is go to the documentation.

    Krugman at the NYTimes is someone who does that. You can (and maybe even should) argue with his interpretations, but he’s one of the few actually going to source material and reporting on what it says.

    This is the huge failure of news in general. The last four Administrations knew it and have been exploiting it.

  5. Paul Miller
    January 24th, 2008 @ 12:35 pm

    News does matter. I’m not sure that it matters if that news is in print, online, radio, user generated or in another medium.

    What matters just as much (if not more) is analysis of the news, expert opinion on the news and an attempt to offer context. This can be done well in print.

    In the BtoB space, it’s clear that the more senior a professional becomes, the more relevant news, analysis and opinion is and, the more they value print (this isn’t just the “old” folks, it’s anyone who reached a management role).

    The Economist does not “break” news – it opines, analyzes and contextualizes the news…and it treats it’s reader as an intelligent subject!

    The financial issues that stem from online advertising being priced at 1/10th a print ad is the kicker…however, I see that media companies will be using the online medium to break news and help the user navigate their way to other content and/or peers to solve problems, improve education, download tools etc, etc. Their behavior becomes an important information source for advertisers.

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