March 15, 2004

The News about News

The Project for Excellence in Journalism's new report on "The State of the News Media," which finds very little good news amid of diagnosis of chronic decline, can be interpreted many ways, depending on your belief in what went wrong and what can be done, if anything, to fix things.

Today, I'm focusing on the last four paragraphs of the 500-plus-page report, which argue for a return to serious, civic-minded journalism as an curative for the creeping distrust in which news organizations are held by the public.

I am not na´ve enough to believe that a renewed commitment to quality journalism is enough to reverse the industry's misfortunes, but it's where we have to start.

Here's the ending of the PEJ report:

"It is possible that the public is simply of two minds. It wants a more entertainment-infused, more sensationalized, more interpretative style of news, and the media have given it to them. The public then feels repulsed and derides the messenger for delivering it.

"It is also possible that this declining trust has only a little to do with the press, that these attitudes toward the news media are only a reflection of a declining trust in all institutions.

"Brushing off these issues as a sign of public hypocrisy or general skepticism, however, seems too glib. The public attitudes aside, something is changing in the news media. Faced with declining audiences, many major news institutions have changed their product in a way that costs less to produce while still attracting an audience. The public senses this and says it doesn't like it.

"Blaming the news media for these changes is too easy. Journalism faces more difficult economic circumstances than it once did. Yet the way the news industry responded has helped erode public trust. How long can the profession of journalism endure if people increasingly don't believe it? To reverse the slide in audience and trust will probably take a major change in press behavior, one that will make the news more relevant and customizable and at the same time suggest to the public, as it did briefly after September 11, that the news industry is more concerned with the public good than Americans suspect." (Emphasis added.)

 Project for Excellence in Journalism The State of the News Media 2004
 USA Today This just in: The future of news
 Washington Post: Howard Kurtz In a Deluge of Scandal, An Erosion of Trust
 New York Times Study Finds a Waning Appetite for News

Posted by Tim Porter at March 15, 2004 07:23 AM

Tim, maybe you can explain ... between the two of us we're two guys on the fringes of news. How is it that stuff which seems to blindingly obvious to us is repeatedly ignored by the people who run this industry?

Why is there no recognition, no leadership?

I'm at a loss to figure it out.

Posted by: tom on March 15, 2004 09:29 AM
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