Blame the journalism

Paul Farhi argues that it’s not the journalists’ fault [via] that newspapers are dying. But of course this is a bit of a straw man argument. Nobody reasonable is saying that it’s journalists fault alone. Blame goes to the newspaper industry as a whole, and mostly to leadership, for not playing square with the internet.

Classified ads were such a central part of your industry? What did you do to try to update them for the internet? Do you have maps? RSS feeds? Easy search? Easy online ad buying and the ability to post photos easily? Did you have them in 2002 when the writing was on the wall?

Advertising revenue is down? Viewers spending less time on your site then they did with your print edition? Are you ad sales reps pushing online with your advertisers, and making the transition easy? More importantly, are you opening up your archives to readers and search engines? Are you bringing us innovations that build on your expertise in extracting information from bureaucracy?

The answer to these questions is still often “no.”

And the reporters get some of the blame, too. I know a reporter I know travels not just with her notepad, but with two cameras. She reports, she shoots. How prevalent is this? Exceedingly, shockingly rare. Why didn’t reporters pick up digital cameras when they became cheap and practical about five years ago and bring them when they reported? Why didn’t they push their online editors to explore alternative ways to present news and information then “take the information, write a news story”?

Too, why are guys like Ryan Sholin, who are out there with great ideas trying to help you survive and thrive on the internet, struggling just to get your attention?

I guess I’m one of the folks who’s criticized the newspapers along the way. I think a little less self-righteousness and a little more curiosity and willingness to try something new would have served journalists pretty well over the last decade. It may even not be too late.