Wrote this about a year ago but felt it needed revisiting.
“The Internet is only one factor of Journalism’s slide into the superficial.” Profound words to pause and ponder.
They were uttered about a year ago by Pulitzer Prize- winning, former New York Times reporter, Sydney Schanberg during a discussion on the “decline of mainstream American Journalism,” with Politics Daily’s staff. (Sweet irony though, he was having this serious discussion with an online, news magazine.) But is he speaking the harsh truth? Have we sacrificed quality and substance for quantitative fluff? Inane gossip? Superficial stories?
The Internet has allowed citizen journalism to flourish. It has enabled everyday folks to interact with minute breaking news as never before. In fact this, easy access has pushed the main stream media into a financial free fall. Many have lost ads to online sites because it’s cheaper to advertise there. This has caused a ripple effect on revenues for television, newspapers, and magazines. The print media is affected the most.
So has the prize been too high? Journalism is an art form. Good journalists work hard, separate their source from the story, invest long hours in research; refine their craft. Great Journalists do all of the above plus have a superb command of the language they’re writing in and a high appreciation of the written word….know how to simplify yet tell the story succinctly and clearly.
They say to be good, we have to be in the “trenches”…earn our stripes. Maybe, therein lies part of the problem. The Internet has such a rapid turnover, we do not have those original Journalists “trenches” to get 'down and dirty' in, both figuratively and literally. To carve our notch; build stamina; gain experience.
Are we doing justice to the craft? Or are we simply trying to rake in points by turning out copious articles with little integrity? Linsay Lohan’s lesbian affair; Paris Hilton chihuahua; Tiger Wood’s divorce settlement; satisfying Lady GaGa's insatiable appetite for attention? Was Mr. Scanberg right about us online “journalists?” Maybe but the mainstream media is not far behind. In fact, many times they are leading the charge with the superficial and the scintillating. Some say they have to, in order to survive the onslaught of the Internet.
But do they really have to or is it simply easier and cheaper to turn to Twitter, Facebook or other online sources to garner the news? Established news outlets like CNN, who says "they're the best in the business for late-breaking news" seem to use tweets from folks with names like "Sweetpuff" or "Dogpound" to set the tone for their 'hard-hitting' news.
Moreover, where were all the hard-nosed, investigative journalists when the perfect financial storm was brewing on Wall St, the Housing Sector and 'too-big-to-fail' banks? Why didn't any of the loud chattering "journalists" on television and those in print, sniff out the stench of the economic doom, ripe with corruption, that crashed down on the U.S. starting 2007?
Maybe hard-hitting journalists are a dying breed and responsible media is now simply a glorified propaganda machine-- and the real gritty news is being unearthed by the online pioneers?
Who is right? Is this a chicken, egg situation? The dumbing down of the news started with the Internet and main stream media is just trying to keep up or are they the ones who threw integrity to the wind to compete amongst themselves for ratings?
Either way, we can all do better with the who, what, where, when, why and how.