Tuesday, April 23, 2019 -
Print Edition

No journalistic free lunch

As traditional media shrink, more movies are coming out about the importance of journalism.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence. People are starting to realize that if traditional media disappear, so will the quality journalism that news- papers in particular cultivate.

Last year alone saw three films about the importance of journalism: The Oscar-winning “Spotlight” about the Boston Globe’s expose of systematic abuse of children by the Catholic Church; the less-than-stellar “Truth” about Dan Rather’s demise at CBS; and “The Program,” which I have yet to see, about the journalist who went after Lance Armstrong.

What these films have in com- mon is their depiction of the time, and tenacity, it takes to uncover a story — three qualities not available in the instant internet age.

John Oliver, the news comedian, recently had a 20-minute segment lauding newsroom journalism and despairing of a future without it. He openly admitted that presenters like him rely heavily on news- papers and pointed out — in a spot-on montage of clips — that much of TV and online media quote print media. (One of the journalists in “Truth” saw this coming; he laughs that one news outlet is quoting another news outlet — not a source itself.)

In his 2007 book, Cult of the Amateur, Andrew Keene argued that user-generated content would crowd out professional journal- ists, and not necessarily with good results. Stories like the one in “Spotlight” cannot be user-generated, but require the professionalism and resources of trained journalists.

To ensure that print media does not disappear, readers will need to subscribe and advertisers adver- tise, because digital media, though technologically advanced, do not — and may never — supply the same kind of reporting that newspapers do.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at shana@ijn.com

Shana Goldberg

IJN Assistant Publisher | shana@ijn.com

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