Monday, May 11, 2009

Wash. Post's Howard Kurtz Asks: The Death of Print?

Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz wrote a column today -- and held a live chat -- asking this question. And he's not the only one. I just listened to an April 27 podcast from NPR's Planet Money on the prospects for print journalism.

When Kurtz -- a self-described industry fervent optimist -- says his belief is shaken in the newspaper business, you know things are bad, as if we didn't already know it. He cites the numerous newspapers that have cut jobs -- including my hometown Baltimore Sun -- and notes that those jobs are never coming back.

If I hear the words "platform agnostic" again, I will scream. According to Kurtz, it's become the excuse du jour for newspapers firing all these journalists, but he asks an interesting question: "How can papers with far smaller staffs and reduced ambitions stem circulation declines?"

Both Kurtz and Planet Money covered the plans of Steve Brill's new Journalism Online LLC (my post on that is here). In a nutshell. Brill proposes
to offer tools to publishers that will allow them to charge for online content. And Reuters is reporting that the Wall Street Journal plans to unveil micropayments for articles and premium content.

But in the end, Kurtz asks the million dollar question -- but for the reading public: "Does it want to pony up for news, whatever the media that prevail? It's all a matter of priorities. Whatever shape journalism ultimately takes in America, make no mistake that in the end we will get what we pay for."

I know I focus on print, because that's what pays my mortgage. But broadcast is having its own troubles. Yesterday's New York Times has an article about how television stations are facing their own advertising dollar squeeze. Guess how some are trying to stem the flow of red ink? Working with newspapers. That's a nice visual.

The Tribune Company, which is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, has merged its TV stations and daily newspapers in Miami and Hartford, and it already produces a lighthearted morning show in south Florida with the help of the newspaper’s columnists, reports the Times.

As the bad news continues, it's up to the National Association of Black Journalists board, representing its membership, to watch these trends and work with companies as the journalism industry continues to change -- rapidly. NABJ needs a board -- and active members -- to make sure that journalists of color have a seat at the table as the industry continues to transform. I want to be a part of that as Region II Director.

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