Seattle-Post Times column on decline of newspaper business

There’s an interesting blog post/column on the blog Seattle Post Times about the decline of journalism and if digital can save it.

The author of the blog is Geoff Baker, a Seattle Times reporter, who attended a panel discussion on the future of the news. He brings up the definition of news and how that is changing.

Someone from the audience of 141 people suggested that it might be time to revisit the actual definition of journalism before we reshape the way it’s disseminated. Here’s a definition I’ve tried to live by: News is what people want and ought to know. The flavor of most of the talk last night about the future of news reflected not so much the “ought.” It was all about the Web’s unprecedented ability to deliver information people “want.” With the demise of the self-contained, omnibus printed newspaper, we’re less likely to have a chance encounter with stuff we ought to know, or opinions we ought to hear. We’ll only have time to zoom in on what we want to know, what we want to hear. [I added the emphasis].

This has been such a common complaint from journalists. News will no longer be what people need to hear, but what they simply want. That can be very dangerous.

My father is a perfect example of this. He only reads news online and only what interests him. He is, therefore, completely out of touch with Boston politics, for the most part, current pop culture events and many other things. If he were reading a traditional newspaper, he would at least see a headline about one of those things. He might not read the story, but he couldn’t ignore it completely like he does now.

There doesn’t seem much to stop this tidal wave of digital news. It’s coming at us and it’s coming fast.

Papers are trying to adapt. Reporters are told to write stories so that Google will pick them up. No more creative ledes, because Google doesn’t register that. The already uniform way of newspaper writing has become even more regimented.

I wonder if future news stories will only be the nut graph, or the who, what, where, when, why and how of a story. That’s all people want to know anyway, right?

Baker mentions

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Filed under From the blogosphere, Newspapers in general, Online

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