CJR Report: The Reconstruction of American Journalism

19 10 2009

“Newspapers and television news are not going to vanish in the foreseeable future, despite frequent predictions of their imminent extinction. But they will play diminished roles in an emerging and still rapidly changing world of digital journalism, in which the means of news reporting are being re-invented, the character of news is being reconstructed, and reporting is being distributed across a greater number and variety of news organizations, new and old.”

That is according to a report published today in the Columbia Journalism Review, sepoct09_300x400authored by Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor of the Washington Post, and Michael Schudson, professor at Columbia’s graduate school of journalism.

The must-read report concludes with specific recommendations, including:

  • Tax breaks for news organizations “substantially devoted to reporting on public affairs.
  • “Increased foundation support.
  • Increased local focus by public radio and television.
  • News accountability oversight by universities.
  • FCC funding for local news coverage.Increased accessibility to information compiled and held by government agencies.

What is bound to be a chaotic reconstruction of American journalism is full of both perils and opportunities for news reporting, especially in local communities. The perils are obvious. The restructuring of newspapers, which remain central to the future of local news reporting, is an uphill battle. Emerging local news organizations are still small and fragile, requiring considerable assistance—as we have recommended—to survive to compete and collaborate with newspapers. And much of public media must drastically change its culture to become a significant source of local news reporting.

Yet we believe we have seen abundant opportunity in the future of journalism. At many of the news organizations we visited, new and old, we have seen the beginnings of a genuine reconstruction of what journalism can and should be.

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AP vs. Internet

28 07 2009

Something else I missed while on vacation: The Associated Press is taking a new hard line against unlicensed use of its stories on search engines and Web sites.

Reaction was swift from bloggers, of course. Then the AP granted an interview to CJR business writer Ryan Chittam, who concludes that bloggers are overreacting and that individual bloggers have nothing to worry about.

Danny Sullivan at Daggle, however, points out many unanswered questions, and the AP is not going to answer them for now.

I think the AP is trying to stand on principle while tacitly acknowledging reality. I agree that the Google news page and other giants should pay for news content. I also agree that neither the AP nor other content providers are going to waste legal fees chasing down the millions of individual bloggers who link to their work. I’m not worried for now.  

I would, however, like to see Google, along with major bloggers, work on a solution rather than always opposing AP. Somebody has got to pay for news gathering else we lose it.