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Is there a place for journalism any more?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Mark2010, Jan 3, 2011.

  1. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    For quite some time now, I've been concerned about what I see as a trend in newspapers. Papers of all sizes have seen their newshole reduced in recent times as part of cost-cutting measures.

    But in the process, have we lost the art of reporting, investigating?

    As a desk editor, some nights I feel I do nothing more than run scores and highlights, standings and agate, and that fills up 95 pecent of my news hole. As a reporter, too often I feel discouraged from pursuing stories because it might upset so-and-so, and management doesn't want to rock the boat.

    What made journalism great is the story-telling, the scoops, the analysis. Have we lost that in favor of more scores and highlights?
  2. ChrisRcc

    ChrisRcc Member

    I think analysis hasn't gone away. However, long-form story-telling has faded in favor of quick blog articles. Scoops are non-existent, as it'll only last for a couple of hours given the online world. Journalism is definitely worse today than what it was.
  3. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    Mark, if your shop has flat-out said, "Hey don't do this story because it'll upset someone," I'd take that as a horrible sign, yeah. I've never been directly told to not pursue something because of someone's feelings or an advertiser's reaction, even when it was something as flagrant as health reports for restaurants that advertised with us. However, I've only been reporting for about six years, so my experience could be the outlier.

    I definitely feel that sometimes, it's easy to get too obsessed with keeping up on the day-to-day churn, whether it's box scores from that one effing hockey coach that won't call or court reporting. From the inside, I don't think anyone is immune to falling into a bit of a comfortable rut.

    But to answer the broader question, there will always be a need for competent writers who can expose or fully explain an issue. The bigger issue to me is what form it'll take. Will it be via the blogging caste on the web? A more developed, somewhat-traditional online thing like Patch or whatever Google or Yahoo eventually does? Or will newspapers experience a resurgence at some point?

    Regardless, and the unfortunate part probably, is that I don't think it'll take nearly as many people as it did in the past. This is kind of a reality of every profession now though, which makes me wonder where we're headed. The population expands each year, and people work at older ages now, and live longer now, yet jobs seem to be contracting... Does society reach that "Star Trek" point where a large portion of the population doesn't work because they don't need to work? </deep thoughts with jack handey>
  4. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    We probably will in the future.

    If you have J-school students and young reporters being hammered to blog, tweet and write shorter for those time-challenged iPad readers, then we shouldn't expect long-form investigation capabilities from future generations.
  5. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Gotta get that box score in from the school that only 20 readers care about. Forget the rest.
  6. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    Good, in-depth reporting takes time and effort. Too often we seemed rushed and it's all we can do to get that night's paper out the door. Seems some people would prefer 8-10 stories a week of "little Johnny Bedwetter scored three touchdowns and rescued a little old lady's cat out of a tree" than anything remotely serious or in-depth.

    Got several ideas I'd like to pursue, but I know how much time they would take to do the research, conduct in-depth interviews with multiple sources, etc. Haven't exactly been encouraged to go for it. If basic reporting that "so-and-so has been suspended for a violation of team rules" gets readers up in arms, what on earth would they think if we shattered their illusion of life by reporting less-than-flattering news?
  7. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    You are right to worry about this, Mark.

    I think more than the attention span, blogs and Internet, the problem is lack of staffing -- at EVERY newspaper.

    How many papers have the staff to allow a reporter and photographer to spend a day at an event that would make a really great, in-depth Sunday feature story? Let alone investigative reporting, which often requires much more than a day to accomplish.

    There's some great story ideas out there at my shop, and in my region, that are crying out for good reporting but there's no one to do it because it's such a day-to-day scramble to put a paper out.

    One example: there's been some flexing of legislative muscle in our region to outlaw teacher tenure. Regardless of one's opinion on this issue (or whether it would stand a chance of surviving a court challenge), here's a basic story idea: What is the process in the local school district to remove a tenured teacher? How are they evaluated each year? Has a tenured teacher been removed in the past decade, and how much time/money did it take?

    So why doesn't our education reporter tackle this? Well, let's see ... she can only work 40 hours a week (or at least that's all she will be paid for). She already covers a bunch of in-school activities and programs (often shooting them, too) to help fill our paper each day. She has to devote much of her time to cover (and follow up on) long, battle-filled school board meetings as a tax referendum is coming up. There's a community college in our area that's part of her beat. She has to cover state funding and other statewide school issues and localize them. And oh yeah, we never replaced our business or entertainment reporters/editors when they were laid off, so she has to contribute stories to those sections, too.

    Just trying to give an example of the point I think Mark and others are trying to make here.
  8. crimsonace

    crimsonace Active Member

    I agree with your point wholeheartedly. I got exposed to it EARLY in my tenure when we started counting bylines as a symbol of our productivity.

    A well-researched long-form in-depth story that might win every statewide award there is (as this tiny paper would later do) would merit the same as the roundup I compiled and slapped my name at the bottom of to keep the beancounters happy.

    What are we going to do? The quick-hit "names and faces" journalism, or the real stuff that people want to read?

    Unfortunately, 1 is the answer.

    As a teacher facing the "education reform" crowd in my state, I see your story idea as a GREAT one, just because there is this misperception that teacher tenure is some ironclad issue that means a tenured teacher can never be fired for any reason. That's not the case at all -- and someone needs to report that. Our (public) school system actually has -- or at least had done so before we changed the website -- our entire teacher evaluation procedures online on our website. That kind of stuff needs to be reported, so when the state SecEd starts blowing hot air or the principals/teachers start defending themselves, the public can be informed instead of just hearing soundbytes.
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