This raises an interesting point – given there are many excellent sources for information (twitter, blogs, primary materials, those MSM writers who we applaud and value) this lowering in value from the MSM is perhaps not such a big deal… if the MSM is left to those people who can’t be bothered doing anything more than buying the same paper they’ve bought all their life, and the rest of us rely on news sources we trust and respect, is the denigration a problem?
It is an interesting question. One we’ve talked about before, but it’s worth re-visiting at the start of the new year.
My answer is yes, it does matter. But you knew I was going to say that, right? It matters because not everyone has the time, knowledge and internet access to find reputable news from other sources. It matters because newspaper reading is still the best way to increase awareness of public affairs, because when you flick through a newspaper you see all the stories, not just the ones you’re going to read (Schoenbach et al, 2005). This finding wavers when looking at election coverage, but I’ll get to that later. It’s worth noting that there is no evidence that news websites encourage the same level of civic engagement as newspapers (Lee, 2009). No doubt because, in Australia at least, news websites are nothing more than a collection of stories about accidents, stories about videos of accidents, stories about twitter, stories about celebrities on twitter, stories about sex crimes, and stories about turbulence on Qantas flights. News organisations don’t take their websites seriously, so why should we?
Back to why it matters. I’m gonna stamp my foot with indignation and say it matters because we shouldn’t have to go hunting for adequate reporting. If journalists can’t even do basic reporting – Who, What, When, Where, Why and How – then why the fuck are they wasting their time being journalists? Go and do something that pays better and has a more secure future.
Now, to any journalist who says audiences don’t want “serious” news, I say that just means the way you present serious news is boring. Consider this: a 2004 study from the Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press found that 21 per cent of 18-34-year-olds learned about the presidential campaign from Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which is almost equal to the 23 per cent who got their campaign info from network news (Feldman, 2007). What makes this very interesting is that the National Annenberg Election Survey revealed that Daily Show viewers knew more about election issues than newspaper readers and tv news watchers.
There is no reason why news can’t be informative and entertaining. And no, that doesn’t mean turning news into a jokey re-write of a media release or putting an infographic into a story that has been written in the usual dull as dogshit way, interviewing the same people and pretending there are only two sides to the story and they are “slamming” each other. If that’s the best you can do, then please change careers and save the rest of us from your mediocre vision.
References not linked to in text:
Feldman, L (2007), ‘The news about comedy: Young audiences, The Daily Show, and evolving notions of journalism’, Journalism, vol. 8, pp. 406-427.
Lee, C (2009), ‘Pixels, paper, and public affairs: a comparison of print and online editions of The Age newspaper’, Australian Journalism Review, vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 91-104.
Schoenbach, K, de Waal, E, & Lauf, E (2005), ‘Research Note: Online and Print Newspapers: Their Impact on the Extent of the Perceived Public Agenda’, European Journal of Communication, vol. 20, pp. 245-258.