Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Era Of Each News Story Being A Profit Center

The following is from a recent job announcement for a reporter for a Gannett newspaper:

We're a Gannett newsroom, which means we're online first, reporters produce video on their company iPhone, and we watch our analytics the way a beagle watches rabbits. We know what people read, so people read what we write.

This might seem innocuous at first, but this attitude is why we don't get enough quality news. What this tells us is that news sources are treating each story as an independent profit center, meaning the writers and editors are going to be looking to provide what gets attention, not what's truthful or necessary. News, in order to serve its purpose, is to inform with as little bias as possible. It's also a good thing to ignore what the majority of people think they want to read  a good deal of the time.

The movement toward stand-alone online articles since online access as grown is hurting the overall quality of what we are given by those supposed to inform us. When news came in a package with other more "juicy" items in a newspaper, magazine, TV show or radio station, the news was usually subsidized by them, where the income from entertainment shows and other items helped fund news programs. But this move toward the smallest unit of media needing to fund itself is forcing more of what we read to be based on the money each item brings in, not the value of the information being delivered so that we can at least try to maintain an informed public.

News by itself will never be a way to make a lot of money. If we don't realize that and take steps to provide high quality news in large quantities, even if it doesn't make money, our future is not going to be based on what matters.

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