Sunday, April 03, 2005

Carnegie reports on the future of the news business

A new study from the Carnegie Corporation entitled Abandoning the News confirms many of the trends I've talked about on this blog: the rise of the Internet as the primary source of news for younger people, the backlash against objectivity, and the rise of participatory journalism.

Regardless of whether you see these trends as positive developments (as I do) or signs of the coming apocalypse (as many in the MSM do), I think it's important for anyone involved in journalism or mass media to read Merrill Brown's outstanding discussion of the report in the Spring issue of the Carnegie Reporter.

I've extracted a number of the most interesting comments in Brown's article and interspersed them with my commentary. Read on...

The daily audiences of national news web sites dwarf those of their print counterparts.

Brown doesn't provide specifics, but this is a startling bit of information, even to me.

CBS News President Andrew Heyward says that young people are “information impressionists." News is gathered by the impressions they receive from many sources around them.

'Information impressionists' has got to be one of the most elegant descriptions I've seen in a long time. It certainly describes my own news gathering habits.

There is a broader, new definition of news that we will need to develop for this next generation. - Heyward

This is one of the hardest facts for the MSM to digest, but one of the most important for them to internalize if they want to survive. My journalism students are barely interested in the types of news most newspapers cover. At least, that's what they think, until they watch The Daily Show. Speaking of which...

A study of 18-to-29-year-olds carried out as part of “Declare Yourself, ” a national nonpartisan effort to register voters for last year's election, reported that 25 percent of young voters named the Internet as the first or second most important source for news compared to just 15 percent for newspapers. In that same study, Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show on the Comedy Central network was identified as the most trusted of the TV anchors among the group that chose the Internet as their top news source, while among the entire group, Stewart tied with then-NBC anchor Tom Brokaw and came in ahead of ABC's Peter Jennings and former CBS anchor Dan Rather when asked about who they “trust the most” to provide “information about politics and politicians.” (Emphasis added)

If this doesn't wake up the MSM, I don't know what will...

... [Jeff] Jarvis observes that today's young people want to understand — on an entirely different level from previous generations — the politics and attitudes of those who write and deliver the news.

This is so true, and presages the final nail in the coffin of objectivity as the primary measure of news.

Jarvis says that rather than be alarmed about Stewart's popularity and credibility as a “news source,” news professionals ought to view Stewart's ascent as “as an endorsement of a new honesty in the news, of the importance of bringing news down off its pedestal and presenting it at eye-level.” (Emphasis added)

Can you say amen!

In other words, even if the daily newspaper industry's advertising revenue dwarfs its Internet business, the future of the American newspaper will be defined online from both a future readership point of view and perhaps in terms of future revenue streams as well. It is time for print industry investments in Internet products to match the online audience size and the extraordinary magnitude of the migration to digital news delivery. (Emphasis added)

To those of you who shuddered when reading the emphasized portion of the previous paragraph, you'd better get used to it.