I read all the way through Robert Samuelson’s Newsweek column about the fate of journalism thinking that I was reading another lament. But then came this gem of an ending:
The changes involve more than economics. When I started, print journalism required two basic skills: reporting and writing. Now, journalists are expected to be multimedia utility players, feeding Web sites, posting videos and doing TV. Up to a point, this is valuable: finding new ways to engage and inform. But it’s also time-consuming and detracts from reporting. Just what constitutes journalism is less clear. . . . The skills that are rewarded are shifting from diligent, curious and clear, to tech-savvy, quick and edgy.
If the Internet permanently crashed tomorrow, I’d be thrilled. Still, the sky-is-falling view of the news business is a triumph of heart over head. Parts of the news complex are expanding. Bloomberg News has 2,300 reporters and editors worldwide, up 300 from early 2006. Among most reporters and editors, journalistic norms–respect for facts, an effort to be fair–endure. Despite problems at individual news organizations, the public has access to more news than ever. People are no less informed. A poll by the Pew Research Center reports that in 2007, 69 percent of the public can identify the vice president, down from 74 percent in 1989; but 76 percent know which party controls Congress, up from 68 percent. “[T]he findings suggest little change in overall levels of public knowledge,” says Pew. The real news about the news business is that it isn’t collapsing. It’s merely changing.