Journalism: Principles or practice?

Let me start with a question.

What are you more concerned about in the digital debate? Is it Journalism or the way you practice journalism?

It might seem like a simple question. But in the debate thrown up by the impact of digital on the print media (the Gannett moves in particular) offers confused answers

A good example of that is Alan Mutter’s take on the 24hour newsroom in the light of the Fort Myers News-Press move to Mojo’s and in car journalism – Very dizzy busy work.

Quickie web coverage seriously imperils the print product, because these down-and-dirty stories deprive reporters and editors of the time they need to consider – and report on – the major issues affecting their communities. If news staffs thinned by continuing economic cutbacks are stretched even thinner with busy work, who will write the compelling stories that merit the continued patronage of the print product by readers and advertisers?

Good point. In this fast paced world who will take the time to write great stories?

Not the people working under Mutter. They will all be creating listings sites, clawing back their rightful position from the Asks and Craigslists of this world

Almost every newspaper has deeper community information and better reviews than Ask.Com ever will. The technology to index and display this data is easily and affordably accessible.

Newspapers shouldn’t have been beaten at their own game by Ask, the No. 4 search engine. But they were.

Howard Owens casts a more critical and informed eye than mine over the comments

Are directory listings our game, or the yellow pages? I’m all for more robust directories on online news sites (we can be the disruptors, going after directory companies), but you would think that a self-described newsoseaur would understand the difference between finding a good Italian restaurant and getting the scoop on an apartment fire.

I couldn’t agree more. But when it comes down to it Owens isn’t afraid to share his view on the real issue:

One word: Competition. What imperils the print product is the disruptive competition unleashed by the web. If we don’t adapt to the web, we die. If we don’t learn to compete in the digital world, we die. This isn’t my quote, and I forget who said it, and it’s paraphrase, but: Somebody is going to eat our lunch, so we might as well eat it ourselves.

The quote is from a post by TV camera man, lenslinger who was commenting on the perceived arrogance of newspaper journalists in thinking they where much better placed to make local TV. Owens point: If we make better video we kill of the competition for the audience from local TV.

And there in lies the nub of my question. If listings arent your game and news isnt your game. What is?

All of the discussion about the impact digital will have begins with the impact it will have on quality journalism. But somewhere in the discussion it becomes about the impact it will have on newspapers ability to make money.

I always thought that talking about the journalistic content of a paper and the advertising content as if they where the same thing was sacrilege. It is, according to the report by the Washington Post on the changes at the News-Press.

Next spring, the paper plans to run a large story on a topic it would not identify. It did, however, say that the reporter on the article will accompany News-Press ad salespeople on trips to advertisers as the paper seeks a sponsor for the article. The logic: The reporter understands the project and can explain it best to potential advertisers. Though the reporter will be in sales meetings, he or she will not be part of the sales pitch. Nevertheless, the practice violates one of journalism’s fundamentals — maintaining a leakproof wall between the news and business sides of a newspaper.

So why, when the issue is debated does it seem that those ‘journalism’s fundamentals’ go out of the window.

So I want to ask that question again.

Is it Journalism or the way you practice journalism?

I can’t tell anymore.

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