Monday, February 04, 2008

Journalism dangers

Danger 1) Never assume an article that a reporter researched and wrote in the summer is still up to date in the winter, particularly if the subjects of the piece have been married 67 years. Always double check the facts if the lead time stretches too long.

Danger 2) Newspaper circulation in North America is down in absolute numbers over the last ten years, after decades of steady circulation numbers that masked a decline in per capita readership.

I talk a bit about the future of newspapers in my classes because I do see a future. I don't think they will disappear. The problem is that newspapers have been bought up by profit-seeking conglomerates and in pursuit of the dollar, they have cut newsrooms in favour of wire services and shared resources. CanWest doesn't allow a reporter from the Gazette to cover the Parliament - the Gazette uses copy from CanWest's Ottawa bureau.

(CORRECTION: As indicated in the comments, the Gazette does have a reporter in Ottawa, but my point stands despite the incorrect example.)

The problem is that Gazette readers in Montreal don't get a local take on the news. My MP is Marlene Jennings and I have no idea what she's doing unless I learn it from her own periodic mailings.

The problem is even worse on the international level. The Gazette has no foreign reporters and CanWest barely has any. Almost all my international news comes from AFP, the New York Times, or Reuters. And here's the rub: I can read that news online as soon as it gets published. I don't have to wait a day for the Gazette to deliver it to my house. I can't count the number of times I've read news at only to get the same article word for word in my Gazette a day later.

Newspapers will not survive like that. In order to retain readership, they need to focus on local interests. Maybe that means dropping a huge chunk of international news, unless you can find a local angle.

Why do I bring this up now? Jon Talton has a superb analysis at his blog. Go read it, but come back here once in a while, OK?

Danger 3) Citizen journalism is a tidal wave. Our Journalism Department even has a course by that title (which seems a little odd to me). But there's a problem or two.

How do you know a citizen journalist isn't a citizen marketer? As Mother Jones points out, shouldn't you know that Stacey Getz's company does work for Wal-Mart when she writes about Wal-Mart in the Tallahassee Democrat? And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Bonus hockey update:

This weekend saw our Panthers take a convincing 4-1 victory over the weakest of the three NDG teams Friday night and play a second game Saturday afternoon. I anticipated a blow out as our top offense in the league faced the weakest defensive team. We won 8-1, a score kept down really only because I told the team's scorers to work to get the non-scorers some goals.

Child Three missed the shutout on a good hard shot over his shoulder. Few goalies at this level could have stopped that, but the heartening aspect was that Child Three stayed up for it. He has a habit of going down on all shots, which leaves him vulnerable to high shots as he can barely reach the crossbar while standing, but on this shot, he stayed up. Good for him.

Bonus bonus skiing update:

Children Two and Three went skiing for the first time yesterday. The instructor was amazed at how well they performed and couldn't believe this was their first time on skis. She gave them an extra half hour free.

Ski equipment is cheaper than goalie equipment, right?


Blogger Fagstein said...

Though I agree with your points in general about the state of the news industry, I should clarify one thing about The Gazette: They do, in fact, have a full-time Ottawa reporter. Elizabeth Thompson is their Ottawa Bureau Chief. She even has a blog.

February 4, 2008 7:34 PM  

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