Journalism at Risk: Is Professional Reporting in Decline?

Neil Henry, a former Washington Post correspondent, and a professor of journalism at the University of California at Berkeley opines the current state of journalism, amid massive cuts at traditional news sources. Some excerpts:

“There certainly won’t be any less news or fewer scandals to report, mind you: Only fewer trained watchdogs on hand to do the hard work of hunting, finding and reporting it.”

“I see a world where the craft of reporting the news fairly and independently is very much endangered; and with it a society increasingly fractured, less informed by fact and more susceptible to political and marketing propaganda, cant and bias.”

“It stands to reason that Google and corporations like it, who indirectly benefit so enormously from the expensive labor of journalists, should begin to take on greater civic responsibility for journalism’s plight. Is it possible for Google to somehow engage and support the traditional news industry and important local newspapers more fully, for example, to become a vital part of possible solutions to this crisis instead of a part of the problem?”

“I can’t help but fear a future, increasingly barren of skilled journalists, in which Google “news” searches turn up not news, but the latest snarky rants from basement bloggers, fake news reports from government officials and PR cleverly peddled in the guise of journalism by advertisers wishing only to sell, sell, sell.”

Scott Karp offers an interesting rebuttal:

“The newspaper business is based on monopoly control over the distribution of news and information in a given region. The Web destroyed those regional monopolies by making it cheap and easy to distribute any information anywhere in the world instantaneously. The car killed the horse and buggy industry. Digital cameras killed the film industry. Technology happens — but technology itself isn’t destroying journalism. It’s simply destroying the business that subsidized journalism.”

“And, let’s not forget, it’s technology, i.e. the invention of movable type and the printing press, that enabled journalism in the first place. Demonizing technology, as Professor Henry does when he references the “threat ‘computer science’ poses to journalism’s place in a democratic society” is, with all due respect, rather medieval.”