The State of Journalism

We discussed the history of newspapers today in my Media and Society class. Our teacher began the lecture by playing a video featuring David Simon (creator of “The Wire”) testifying to a senate committee in a hearing on the future of journalism. Although the hearing took place last May, it is still really relevant and interesting — especially with the news of The New York Times’ plans to begin charging for content in the near future. Simon made some great points about the state of the news industry and some really interesting suggestions for salvaging it.

Here are some of the highlights from the segment of Simon’s testimony we watched in my class:

  • Simon warned in his testimony that high-end journalism is dying.
  • Simon asserted that, while many people argue new media has democratized journalism, it has actually corrupted it. In this charge, he called on the watch dog function of journalism, saying that challenging the institutions of our society requires professional training.
  • Consolidation of the media was detrimental to journalism because quality was sacrificed for the bottom line.

Simon also offered the following suggestions for salvaging the news business:

  • The industry must charge for online content in order to maintain the integrity of the reporting. After all, it costs money to hire the best editors and journalists and to send them on assignment. Simon also pointed out that a basic premise of marketing is that if you can’t charge for a product, it has no value.
  • The public should not fund newspapers. This is because of the watchdog function of the news industry; journalism must remain independent. It must be able to bite the hand that feeds it.
  • Newspapers should be given nonprofit status, and should be restored to family-run ownership when possible.

You can read the full transcript of Simon’s testimony and watch the video by clicking here. If you are watching the video, the portion we watched in class today and that which I referenced in my post takes place between 30:00 and 40:30.

Do you agree or disagree with Simon’s ideas? Which of his ideas stood out to you most? Do you think that his ideas for saving the journalism industry are viable? Do you think charging for content is viable?

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