OurBlook.com is a website that gathers opinions from today’s top leaders in the hopes of collaboratively finding tomorrow’s solutions. It is funded by Paul Mongerson, a retired CEO who has a long history of philanthropy in the journalism world. In December 2008, those of us who run the site launched a future of journalism interview series. To date, we have collected over 100 interviews with well known journalists and new media experts.
When looking for similarities between the interviews, there’s an underlying sentiment that newspapers have a lot of catching up to do. Many experts also expressed the belief that, in terms of their internal culture, newspapers seem to have a hard time adapting to change. The good news, however, is that all believed that journalism will survive in one form or another, and that there will always be a need for trained journalists.
Below are some of our findings and the best quotes from the interview series.
Future of Journalism Interview Series Findings
* Newspapers are still searching for business and editorial models that are sustainable in this new world of media. Outlets that cling on to their old methods of doing things will die.
- The idea of newspapers charging for their websites was once looked down upon, but is now becoming an accepted strategy. Additionally, as online advertising changes, and banner ads are quickly becoming passé, experts are urging newspapers to explore non-traditional revenue streams such as online games or web apps.
- Hyper-local is gaining acceptance. As a result, harnessing the power of citizen journalism has become a key goal for many media outlets.
- The role of journalists and the skills necessary to succeed have changed. This has caused many industry insiders to ponder the future of journalism’s culture and ethics.
- One-way storytelling has given way to a two-way (or multiple) conversation between the journalist and the audience. Tools like Twitter and Facebook have become incredibly important in this new context.
- TV news is beginning to experience the same changes and chaos as print journalism, causing many to panic.
Best Quotes from Future of Journalism Series
“I believe this is both a difficult and exciting time in journalism. The old paradigm is dying. The monopoly/ologopoly that news organizations once enjoyed is breaking apart. Amid all the disruption, something new is being born. The new paradigm is more democratic and comprehensive than the old one. The key is to make sure that it has substantive journalism.” — John Yemma, editor, Christian Science Monitor
“To date, newspapers have, for either the strangest or most inexplicable reason, chosen to either downplay or ignore their strengths: Reporting and writing. Newspapers have a virtual monopoly on those two attributes. ‘Aggregating,’ and its tedious synonyms, is not reporting nor is it writing; it’s cutting and pasting.” — Bruce Austin, professor and chair, Department of Communication at Rochester Institute of Technology
“Giving away information for free on the Internet while still charging 50 cents to $1 for the print version of the paper was one of the most fundamentally flawed business decisions of the past 25 years. Newspapers told their paying customers that the information truly had no value. They told their paying customers that they were suckers. Why would anyone pay 50 cents for something he or she can get for free? This poorly conceived and obviously flawed strategy has helped put the newspaper industry into its current financial condition and hastened the demise of many publications.” — Paul J. MacArthur, professor, Utica College
“What I find unique is that publishers have gone online and said ‘actually, we sell content.’ In the 200-plus years of printing newspapers…they never sold content once. They sold advertising…The problem with that one trick pony, as it is right now, is that this sort of ‘wantiness’ of investors to invest in a company whose primary raison d’être is to sell banner ads, is not all that great…People involved in online marketing know the banner ad is not the future of online advertisement or online marketing.” — Mitch Joel, author of “Six Pixels of Separation” and founder of Twist Image
“We are going to lose a horrifying amount of experience, judgment, talent and the culture of journalism which has, for the most part, made it a very ethical enterprise. Not only are we losing the accumulated judgment, wisdom, experience, knowledge of tens of thousands of journalists, we are losing their sense of how to stay relatively pure.” — Bob Garfield, co-host, “On The Media”
“I’m not convinced that video and audio…‘multimedia’…are going to be newspapers’ salvation. They’re fine to have, as supplements to written stories with good graphics, powerful photos and useful database information. But video and audio take real time…five minutes of video is five minutes…and people can scan text so much faster. We’ll always want to see the spectacular video or some special moment captured in sound. But if that would save newspapers online, then TV websites would be thriving…and they’re not.” — Charlotte Grimes, Knight Chair in Political Reporting at the Newhouse School, Syracuse University
“When the U.S. media look at the changes in media consumption trends, naturally enough, they tend to focus on the United States. This is terrifically misleading. Newspapers are thriving in countries such as India and China…I say to my friends and colleagues: You should feel blessed. You are part of a revolution in how information is distributed far greater than the invention of the printing press, and certain to have more far-reaching effects.” — Thad McIlroy, author and founder, FutureOfPublishing.com
“My belief is that newspapers, in their traditional form, can still be enormously popular. And if newspaper publishers largely reject the web, and go back to basics, they can decrease their operating expenses and generate enough display advertising to return to profitability…I think it’s been the mainstream newspaper industry’s embrace of new editorial formulas and approaches that has been leading to its demise.” — Adam Stone, publisher, Examiner community newspapers in Putnam and Westchester counties in New York.
“Now, with online advertising in cyclical decline, news publishers of all kinds…newspapers and magazines but also online-only news organizations…see that it’s hard to support a news department with only the advertising revenue stream.” — Gordon Crovitz, former publisher, the Wall Street Journal
“The consolidation of media in the broadcast age also changed the sociology of journalism by turning it into much more of a profession for educated people and, at its highest levels, an extremely powerful and prestigious position. I think an increasing portion of the audience for mass media, especially at the young end of the demographics, is turned off by the self-importance of highly visible mainstream journalists (as demonstrated by the success of media parodies like the Onion and ‘The Daily Show’), and resent the inability to talk back in any kind of meaningful way…Members of the Millennial generation in particular find the pomposity and stuffiness of traditional media less engaging than the give-and-take of social channels.”— Rob Salkowitz, author and founder of MediaPlant
“Regardless of the newspaper, I think one of the most important things they should consider is nurturing talent. Are you a local newspaper? Ninety percent of your income from print adverts targeted at people in the area? Then you should be looking for the local citizen journalists who sit next to their police scanner and report on the drug busts and local fires. Assume you will have to invest in improving their writing skills, be relaxed about them publishing elsewhere, and pay them enough money to make it worth their while to give you the first option on material. If they could afford to, they would be on the scene at these fires and such.” — Brian McNeil, contributor, Wikinews
“Social media are becoming part of journalism, another transmission system, that all journalism must be involved in, in much the same way that aggregation is now a component of journalism. Journalism is more than narrative now. It is more than storytelling. It always has been, but professional journalists didn’t always see it. Journalism is shifting from being a product…to being a service…how can I help you answer your questions.” — Tom Rosenstiel, director, Project for Excellence in Journalism
Sandra Ordonez calls herself a web astronaut who has been helping organizations navigate the internet since 1997. Currently, she helps run OurBlook.com, a collaborative online forum that gathers interviews from today’s top leaders in the hopes of finding tomorrow’s solutions. Since December 2008, the site has been conducting a Future of Journalism interview series. Sandra also heads up the Facebook page, “Bicultural and Multicultural People Rule.” Previously, she was the Communications Manager for Wikipedia. She graduated from American University with a double degree in International Relations and Public Relations.