David and Goliath analogies predicting the shattering of the traditional press by the new media and citizen journalism has inched closer to fruition according to Bill Kirtz’s Poynter.org column: Future of Journalism: New Media, New Money. In his commentary covering the “Future of Journalism Conference” held at Harvard, on June 20-21, Kirtz revealed common ground and disagreement among noted experts about the role of the traditional press in the digital age. Kirtz, a Northeastern University professor, summarized the sentiments of some of the 100 or so professors and researchers attending the Carnegie-Knight conference, most prominently “. . . that mainstream media must embrace — not fight — the blogosphere and that serious reporting can survive by catering to niche audiences.”
The following are a few of Kirtz’s findings, (please see his article for more).
Carl Sessions Stepp, a University of Maryland journalism professor and writing coach, said journalists should consider themselves entrepreneurs and find ways to make more money from existing news services like archives. From Gutenberg to Google, he added, “Young marginal upstarts with great ideas is a journalistic tradition.”
Markus Prior, a Princeton politics professor who studies how broadcast and cable television have changed politics, disputed the popular notion of a decline in print, television and radio news consumption since the advent of cable news and the Internet. While today’s consumers have more substitutes for news and more entertainment options, he said, fewer Americans consume more news. So he sees a healthy market for specialized news catering to the 20 percent who are “dedicated news junkies.”
Citizen journalism was a popular topic at the conference as well.
Lowell Bergman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and University of California, Berkeley journalism professor, said, “we have to get over complaining” about it. He noted that the concept isn’t new, and that many big stories have emerged from grassroots concerns. His main problem with citizen journalism: It “denies the reality that we need verifiable, solid, accountable journalism. We need a sense of standards.”
Clyde Bentley, a Missouri School of Journalism professor who researches user-generated news, said, “we’ve had our head in the sand” about the blogosphere’s impact. The debate over bloggers’ influence “is over,” he said. “Blogging is a numbers game. It’s there and we’ll just have to deal with it.” Noting that 120,000 new blogs a day dwarf the country’s 1,427 dailies, he said editors should treat the blogosphere like a giant wire service. Bentley said that while consumer demand for content decreases, their demand for content navigation increases.
In my opinion, it seems the mantra “follow the money” is driving the motivation of those calling for quick change for the traditional press as advertisers and news consumers increasingly show their new allegiance to online media. Rising costs in newsprint and its delivery have become catalysts for change to an industry more accustomed to reporting change than embracing it.
No matter the form, though, reputable, credible news outlets will remain the target and the employer of talented J-school grads. And while some doors may close, many more will open.