I think I’m going to start a regular series of posts with the above title…

Today’s subhede:
The Death of (print) Newspapers Does Not Equal the Death of Journalism.”

The latest sky is falling scenario will come via NPR’s Morning Edition tommorow. Here’s a preview of the piece:

VANISHING NEWSPAPER: In some significant American city, somewhere soon, a trusted metro newspaper will simply go belly-up, experts say, probably due to some combination of declining advertising revenues, eroding paid circulation, and an owner’s bankruptcy. We take a look at Hartford, Connecticut, home to the Courant – the nation’s oldest continuously published newspaper. It has a distinguished record of watchdog and enterprise journalism but has been suffering from severe budget cuts. And yet there’s plenty to cover. Hartford is a troubled city, but it’s also the state capital, a major center for the insurance agency – and coverage there has been abandoned by other major news outlets in the region, such as the New York Times and the Boston Globe. We try to envision what would happen if the Courant, owned by the bankrupt Tribune company, were to disappear. The loss for the city, the region and the state would be tremendous.

Now, there is no doubt that this year will be a huge year of transition for the business of newspapers. And, we should not forget that when we see these huge numbers associated with newspaper layoffs that real people are involved. Often times analysis of the state of the business can come off as callous, but there are people involved.

But, as I’ve said now in a number of different blog posts and public forms, the death of newspapers this year does not equal the death of journalism. Quality journalism will continue to be delivered, it just won’t be in the printed form. New business models will emerge (many are already in the experimentation stage), you just won’t be paying a yearly subscription or 50 cents at the newsstand.

There is much being written about the state of journalism and its future. Bill Keller of the New York Times recently did an extensive Q&A on the state of the NYT and the profession in general. At one point, he says:

There is no end of faith-based polemics on the subject of newspapers’ survival. Print is dead! Online readers must pay for content! Online readers will never pay for content! Give newspapers endowments, like universities! We should be a little suspicious of ironclad certainty.

Fair enough.

But what I would tell Keller and others making arguments for the old business model of journalism is that editors and publishers sat idly by for more than 13 years, content to let those “web guys” do their thing but declining to really examine the many different business opportunities. Now, the experimentation is happening, but much of it is coming from outside the big media companies.

We — journalists, educators, editors, publishers — need to look to the future. This will be a difficult, gut-wrenching year, but something new is being born in the process.

Steve Outing is one of those looking to the future in his outline of the new All-Digital Newsroom, where he says in part:

What will it take to get one of the remaining jobs in the all-digital newsroom? Certainly an understanding of, and probably enthusiasm for, new forms of media and storytelling. The transformed newsroom will be filled with multi-functional journalists who are comfortable carrying around a digital camera and tiny video camera; who make it part of their routine to record audio for possible use in podcasts or multimedia project sound clips; who are regular users of social networks and understand how to leverage them to communicate with and attract new readers, and share some personal information about themselves as well as promote their work; and who are comfortable and willing to put in the time to engage and communicate with their readers or viewers, including participating in reader comment threads accompanying their stories.

While in this transformed news enterprise reporters will take some of their own photos and video, I think there will remain a place for photojournalists — but they’ll need to be adept at video and not just still news photography. They’ll need to know how to do video editing and production, and produce multimedia content.

Journalists clinging to notions of narrow job descriptions and who still hold dear many of the old ways of doing things for print are unlikely to be among those offered jobs in the downsized digital newsroom. To win one of these jobs, extreme flexibility and the love of learning and a challenge will be qualities that hiring managers will seek. I suspect that may make this digital newsroom younger than today’s print newsrooms, yet I know plenty of older journalists who revel in the media transformation and 24/7 nature of today’s news, and young journalists just out of college who still think conservatively. So don’t count out seeing some gray hair in the digital newsroom, though not as much.

As my old boss used to say, Onward!

Steve



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