Newspapers must die

(Last Updated On: May 27, 2009)

After years of the newspaper’s decline from crown jewel of the local community to corporate investment, it is time to let the newsprint medium die. If we let the traditional resource die, we can invent the news source of the future.

The traditional media are killing themselves slowly every day with a short-sighted need to make a 30 percent profit on their product. The pressure of quarterly profits does not allow CEOs to create and develop a future for their products.

They have cut resources to the bone and little is left, except for a dire need for quality investigative journalism.

My local newspaper, the Detroit Free Press, won a Pulizer  prize this year for local reporting. I’m concerned that this might be the last. How can newspapers and magazines compete against free news? It is troubling that the public seems to feel that news should be free and provided by bloggers and citizen journalists who are happy to work for the same rate.

Bloggers and citizen journalists are fine for providing opinion or breaking-news content. Any accident, police situation or public event in the range of a camera phone can be documented easily. However, quality, in-depth reporting is best done by trained professionals, supported with a paycheck,  backed by an organization and legal counsel.

The average citizen journalist is not going to take the time, money and effort to investigate a city hall scandal.  Bloggers tend to use personal opinion, Google, fellow blogs and Wikipedia for fact checking.

I don’t know many photojournalists willing to risk their lives to capture war images for a photo credit or byline.

Even more of a concern is who the hell is willing to sit though a local city council or board of education meeting for free?

Newspapers must die quickly.

We don’t have time to test gimmicks that might save the print medium. The people in charge only know mass media. They are doing all they can to stuff a clunky old model into a sleek new media bag. It’s not going to fit.

Once print dies, it will be reinvented out of the ashes of necessity. Once the public is without quality resources — its value will be redeemed.

Demand and value will spark an innovative person or group of people to discover the way to make news reporting and distribution a viable venture.

No matter the outcome, news distribution will not look like it does today. If it does, they didn’t get it right and we will have to kill it again.

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