Business, Economics and Jobs

Journalism in the digital age

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An exhibit at Washington DC's Newseum, the museum of journalism (Image: Flickr user rcade (cc: by-nc-sa))

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"The New York Times" recently announced it will eliminate 100 news room jobs. Many believe much of the traditional news media profession may be going the way of the newspaper boy.

Over 100 newspapers have shut down their presses this year, and there are similar shifts in shrinkage in broadcasting in the face of economic hard times and the free media competition of the Internet.

As more and more of us choose to go online for our news, the question persists: Are news outlets -- whether digital, broadcast, or paper-and-ink -- financially sustainable in the long-term?

Nick Lemann, the Dean of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, thinks they can stay afloat with help from the government and philanthropists.

"We should consider a number of public policy and not-for-profit measures to shore-up the original news reporting function in society. And these include letting newspapers be non-profit and receive charitable donations from foundations and individuals."

Phil Balboni, of the online news outlet GlobalPost, isn't entirely sure this type of funding is the best way to go, but admits that it's questionable whether the traditional business models can hold up.

"Clearly we're in a massive transformative shift in the underlying economics of traditional media. And with the tremendous reductions in staff in major newspapers and at major television stations across the country, you would have to ask yourself that question."

But, says Balboni, he is optimistic about the future of journalism. He believes there are great opportunities in the for-profit sector.

"You can build a business around high-quality journalism. You have to be innovative; you have to be fiscally disciplined."

Lemann says the most pressing problem is the void of "accountability journalism" in major cities.

"The single most endangered sector in American journalism right now is ... accountability journalism in major metropolitan areas and state capitals. Because the most shrunken sector of American journalism is big metropolitan newspapers, which in many cases are down to half or below half of their news room size only five years ago."

"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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