Scylla & Charbodis provides a summary for the folks who don’t want to wade through my account of the goings-on at Columbia School of Journalism in the new edition of the Weekly Standard, “The Media’s Ancien Regime”:
Journalists used to have sole access to facts. Readers had no such access, and were in no position to dispute journalists. Hence, journalists became high priests. Journalists no longer have sole access, and any journalism theory based upon the assumption of having sole access is flawed.
Eaxmple for today: Why would anyone bother with the Washington Post’s or the New York Times’ accounts of yesterday’s Candian elections? Ed Morrissey reported the results in real time, with pointers to all the Candian blogs anyone could need as well as an assessment of the likely government to result.
The realities of information availability coupled with the nearly instant arrival of the appropriate experts to sort through that info is forcing old media to change everything it does. From this morning’s Wall Street Journal on Knight Ridder (subscription required):
Job cuts, benefit reductions, and reduced newspaper sizes are part of a plan to improve margins by as much as $150 million a year at newspaper chain Knight Ridder Inc., according to people familiar with presentations management has been making to potential buyer….
One question sure to be hanging over the process is how these financial changes may affect the quality of journalism at the publisher of such venerable titles as the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Charlotte Observer and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Some of the company’s 18,000 employees, 28% of whom are represented by unions, have discussed their own buyout plan.
What investors should be demanding is an easy to find breakdown of on-line versus tradtional revenue. How long will it be before the first paper goes completely internet, recognizing that all of its old media costs of paper, production and distribution can be channelled into a better news product?