Economic Transparency

I remember being taught the concept of economic transparency (or lack thereof)  in Jour200. The basic idea was that in order for newspapers to continue high profit returns, they reduce their staff and do more with less. With fewer journalists writing more stories, the overall quality in reporting decreases. However, this effect goes largely unnoticed to the public because of how cheap newspapers are. The cost is so low, the public does not expect much and the overall quality of journalism quietly decreases.

This effect  is not unique to the print industry. Economic pressures on broadcast journalism are creating the same "do more with less" business model. TV stations are looking for "backpack" or "one-man-band" journalists. Now a journalist is expected to shoot, edit, write and report an entire story on their own. It's difficult for one journalist to match the work that used to be done by a photographer, editor and reporter.

Meanwhile, many newspapers are adding video to their websites. But most traditional print journalists aren't trained in video, which is reflected in the product.

With both print and broadcast journalism looking to the Internet as the savior of their business and a portal to the next generation of journalism, the broadcast industry should have the advantage. You'd expect a TV station's online video to be of higher quality than a rookie print journalist's.

But the lower quality backpack journalist videos are less likely to out-shine a print journalist's video. With free access to the news websites, remember that the public then has lower expectations of quality. The result is that the playing field is leveled and both industries have a fair shake at winning the online audience.

Now, not all all backpack journalists produce poor videos. With journalism schools teaching the one-man-band style, the future quality of these videos will improve some. Likewise, not all print journalists produce amateur video. But the "do more with less" business model, as a whole, is negatively affecting both industries.

So is print journalism really dying? Is local TV news going the way of the dodo bird? Or is all of journalism just decaying slightly as it tries to evolve into a creature that is a little bit of print, a little bit of broadcast and has some new Internet genes?


Welcome, Spring Semester Class

Welcome to the spring semester of JOUR 352 and 652. As part of your class participation grade, you'll be asked throughout the semester to respond to some topic threads that I post, to start at least one thread of your own, and to comment on others' ideas. Let's try to limit the discussion to new-media topics: How the journalism industry is changing, for instance, and how it's being covered.