The reduction in paid subscriptions and advertising revenues may make staff downsizing inevitable. At the same time, competition between and among internet news source makes the competition for audiences more intense. Facing that challenge, the Washington Post has expressed a commitment to continue it’s in-depth reporting, while moving aggressively to increase readership of its Internet paper. Relying on online metrics to identify the number of clicks each of its articles receives, it is able to monitor constantly the popularity of each article, identify those with limited interest and replace low performing articles on a ongoing basis. In this environment, is it reasonable to worry that articles about Kardashian weddings and celebrity probation violations will attract larger audiences than school board meetings, second injury funds and low-level corruption. Focusing news and media attention on “easy news”, ie. news that is easily available through multiple sources, is cheaper and faster than authorizing journalists to spend months on a single article, or even a series of articles, requiring extensive research and exploration. It will be even more of a challenge to find a means by which journalists will be vigilant about reporting the mundane, but critical issues facing local communities.
It is difficult to criticize the paper media. Their goal in 2012 is not to expand profit, but to secure survival while finding new resources and audiences. In the interim we must, each of us, support and encourage journalism that helps us to remain knowledgeable of the challenges that continue to confront us. Certainly, this is essential to an educated citizenry.
Edward R. Murrow explained the problem this way: “the newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end, the communicator will be left with the problem of what to say and how to say it”.