Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What About The News?

The Trib is in trouble. The Times is preparing to mortgage its Manhattan offices. Newspapers are cutting staff, cutting corners and cutting their wrists.

It seems inevitable. The Upstart Internet, the blog, the online magazine all offer the news for free and right at our fingertips whenever we want it.

Take it from an insider - when the papers go, the news will suffer. As someone who's worked for an online paper, a television network affiliate and local and regional radio, I can say with authority that the papers are where most broadcast news get the stories they cover. The other media don't have the time, they don't have the staff - they've never been able to do the in-depth, investigative work that newspapers do with the same regularity that the papers offer.

It's not that broadcast journalists aren't capable. They just aren't given the time. How can you break a story when you've got two others to file that day while you're investigating it? Some broadcast journalists do more than two - I remember doing as many as five in one day when I was a young, energetic TV reporter.

Even now I try to break stories before they make the paper - but by the time I've spent two weeks squeezing in interviews between the daily stories, I'm generally reading about my story in the paper.

Newspapers break the stories. Broadcast news follows up and expands the scope. That's how it's been forever. And once the newspapers are gone, the base of the news foundation will be gone, too. The other news media will adjust, but it'll take time. And the news will be pretty pitiful stuff for awhile. They'll all be cannibalizing each other's stories and fighting for exclusives while news is breaking just a mile down the road. There won't be the staff to cover it.

The trouble isn't just hitting newspapers. NPR announced it's cancelling two programs and laying off 64 employees. Watch the cuts continue in the broadcast world. Good thing Wolf and John re-upped with CNN. They're going to be needed if the rest of the staff ends up with pink slips. Perhaps the CNN i-Report idea is going to be the newsroom of the future. Grab your iPhone, get some pictures and send it to the news. Voila. You're a journalist.

Just remember - it's who, what, when, where, why and how. And never say somebody did the deed until they're convicted. We don't want our citizen journalists to get sued for libel.

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