Journalism industry is dead and it’s your fault.

By Lou Covey, Footwasher Media CEO


Yeah, I mean you -- the readers, the advertisers, the management of the industry and the journalists.  We’ve all played a part in killing it.

 This is not just my opinion.  Just two weeks ago the Tow Center for Digital Journalism issued an exhaustive report on the death of the industry.  Last week the 40-year-old EE Times announced they were dropping the free print edition of the publication and would only offered paid subscription to the EE Times Confidential.  This week, the Washington Post announced their online content would now be offered through a pay wall.

 But when it comes to my opinion, I’ve been predicting this for 10 years, and in the specifics, since I started this blog in 2006. Communications Basics has been watching the demise of the industry for a long time and not with glee but pragmatism.  The web and social media were instrumental in this outcome but our lack of understanding how all this “free content” shows up in our computers every day has been the real culprit. Journalists need to be paid to do their job.  If they don’t get it indirectly through advertising, then it has to come from direct government or corporate subsidy, or from direct subscription of the audience.  

The Tow Center report called out a trend in journalism, that this blog identified as happening 4 years ago, where some journalists are abandoning the traditional newsroom and focusing on specific topics.  The report identified the SCOTUSblog that beat CNN to a correct report on the Supreme Court ruling on the national health care system earlier this year.  These out-of-work reporters established their own organization focused only on Supreme Court coverage.  Their work in this case turned them into “overnight” successes with solid financial backing.  They don’t sell advertising but the content is sponsored.

That’s the model we’ve been predicting for journalism for quite a while now and it is coming to pass.  It is a free for all in free fall.  As the Tow Center report put it:

"If you wanted to sum up the past decade of the news ecosystem in a single phrase, it might be this: Everybody suddenly got a lot more freedom. The newsmakers, the advertisers, the startups, and, especially, the people formerly known as the audience have all been given new freedom to communicate, narrowly and broadly, outside the old strictures of the broadcast and publishing models. The past 15 years have seen an explosion of new tools and techniques, and, more importantly, new assumptions and expectations, and these changes have wrecked the old clarity."

 What does that mean?  Come back next week and we’ll tell you.