Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My rant for the day: print news has nothing to do with investigative reporting

Back in March, 24/7WallSt.com made a lot of news when it published an article describing the financial woes of the print news industry. The article said, "the newspaper industry has entered a new period of decline." This news caught many Boomers by surprise and in the weeks / months that followed there were discussions if city dailies should be provided non-profit status to save these institutions. In Boston this article proved to be fairly prophetic. Over the past several months local news has been obsessed by the trials and tribulations of the Boston Globe, and despite a temporary stay of execution due to some significant cost-cutting measures, one must realize that print dailies are not likely to be with us much longer. For the record, after watching what passes for local and national news on the televisions major networks, I can honestly say that I hope it is not long before ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC all recognize that they no longer provide news to the public either and re-name their nightly "news" broadcasts into paparazzi news... yet I digress.

For my grandparents the thought that major cities might be without a daily newspaper would seem unbelievable, but in the last 20+ years technology (and the internet in particular) have become part of nearly everyone's life in the United States. The concern that investigative journalism will cease if city newspapers close is a ridiculous conclusion. To paraphrase Alicia Silverstone in the 90s movie, Clueless, "As if!" Investigative journalism can flourish without the need to purchase ink by the gallon. As I just ranted above, newspapers and network news broadcasts hardly reserve any space at all in their papers or minutes on the air to share "news". Rather, both are filled with feel-good local stories, traffic accidents, sports updates, weather and other inane stories that you would be hard pressed to categorize as thoughtful reporting. This morning I stumbled upon a Boston-based online reporting organization called, GlobalPost.com.

According to GlobalPost.com's website, their mission is "to redefine international news for the digital age." I've taken a quick look at the website and it is impressive. I'm sure there are hundreds of other competent sites that offer similar services (perhaps with slightly different focuses - i.e. domestic news, policy-specific biases, regional focus, etc...) So the next time you hear people bemoaning the closing of a newspaper tell them to get their news sources from online. It is more affordable, more environmentally friendly and provides you with more options. It is true that if you read your news online you can not spread open the paper, and annoying inserts won't drop from the screen, nor will you be forced to wash your hands because they are dark with ink smudges, and discarded newspapers will not be carelessly thrown on the street, but somehow I think that investigative reporting will still survive - so let's not pretend it will some how go away. If one wants to make an argument for propping up city dailies let's get real about the reasoning. However, I'm not one for preserving institutions that were unable to change and keep up with the times (yes that philosophy also extends to other industries as well i.e. automotive, banking, etc). If the Boston Globe, NY Times and other print newspapers can not adapt - then it is time to say "Good bye".


Anonymous said...

As a writer and reader, I do hope--and believe--that investigative reporting will survive. But online news sources aren't necessarily fond of long stories, which investigative reports tend to be. Of course, network news now has the same problem. I always laugh to myself when NBC News airs its "In Depth" segments (oh the irony!).

What I'm seeing locally is smaller, independent papers picking up the slack. Most people see these as throwaway papers, filled as they often are with lots of bar and bands ads and lots of opinion columns. However, I'm also finding some great local investigative journalism. And every now and then, these local guys actually piss off some big shot in town because they're airing his/her dirty laundry.

BosGuy said...

Yes, I think local / community papers will pick up the slack and survive, but who knows where this will lead. Certainly, dailies need to figure out a way to curtail their expenses and better leverage the internet if they want to be here long term.