LOOK WHO IS MISSING? Where have all the news people gone, long time passing? Check out the PC Mag's "50 Most Important People on the Web." Lots of innovation, hipness, Second (and maybe Third) Lives, iconoclasts, naysayers, billionaires....but not one news industry person among them. Isn't it time some news innovators joined the engineers, pontificators and even politicians? Surely, there's enough intellectual power to power someone newsy into next year's Top 50 list, to join the likes of Steve Jobs, Nick Denton, Meg Whitman, Michael Arrington and Tina Tequila.
SALVE FOR NEWSROOM GLOOMINESS: With all the cutbacks, outsourcing, offshoring and predictions of more and worse to come, it's no surprise that those inhabiting newsrooms are a little down, a wee bit depressed. Of course, those of us who came out of them would smirk and say, what's new. Glass half-empty or half-full? Standard newsroom response: Yeah management owns all the glasses and they should fill 'em up.
Still skeptical (okay, cynical) journalists, who tend a bit to the dark side produce the journalism we use daily. For those intent on reforming the trade -- and bringing a bit of light in -- Leonard Witt's PJNet.org (for Public Journalism) is worth a read. In today's post. Here's his first recommendation:
The Readership Institute has done studies and finds that as a group newsroom cultures tend to be passive/ defensive or aggressive, defensive types, neither of which are conducive to change. So issue number one. Change your attitude. Become offensive and aggressive.
Twelve more good -- and maybe more doable -- ideas follow. Post them in a newsroom near you.
ADAM SMITH AND NEWSPAPERING: I forgot to point out what I thought was a milestone "Red All Over" column in the Wall Street Journal by megacapitalist Steve Rattner. It ran in mid-February and did a great job of laying out the financial straits newspaper companies are in. When Rattner wrote isn't news to anyone reading this blog, but his message to the WSJ audience is an important one.
It gets the message out that the changing economics of the business are tanking the newspaper industry faster than anyone thought possible. For solutions, Rattner suggested that they may no longer work as creatures of the public market and brought up public financing, NPR-like funding and other notions. A must accompaniment to Rattner's commentary is Jack Shafer's response to it in Slate. It's a hoot, as he decries treating newspapers like ballet schools and making the point high-margin newspapers have been their own worst enemies for decades.
What's key here is that survivability of news-producing companies is finally getting more public attention.
WASHPO, SALON AND WHY THE NUMBER OF REPORTERS REPORTING MATTERS: Yes, newsrooms from Philadelphia to San Jose are being decimated. Thousands of newspaper newsroom jobs have been lost over the past several years, and deeper cuts seem likely. Journalists often sputter in explaining to the public why this is a problem, why it's not just another GM layoff or abstract outsourcing product. They have trouble showing how the journalism they produce matters.
So it's worth seizing on the Washington Post series on Walter Reed. It's classic, and in the governmental response you can see the power for good that journalism can do. Surely, everyone agrees that those who have sacrificed so much in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve our best treatment. While politicians gave great lipservice to veterans and their families for half a decade, only deep reporting, expensive, time-consuming investigative reporting, can shine the light where it needs to be shone. For those concerned about great journalism and its funding, it's worth using the Post story as a beacon. (And of course paying acknowledgment to Salon for its ground-breaking series on the same subject, whatever the controversy about the connection of the Salon and WashPo pieces.)Even the mighty Post isn't immune from industry cutbacks, having cut newsroom staff last year through buyouts.
What's lost when we lose thousands of reporters? All those stories that powerful people would prefer don't see the light of day.