The news business, and it is a business, is getting squeezed. There are those who think “big J” journalism is a waste of effort and resources at a time when we can count exactly how many people spend time reading the stories, watching the videos, and clicking around on our interactive features.
Strapped for cash, the easy answer is to do things that drive traffic: produce more photo galleries; publish more “gotchas,” celebrity and entertainment news; follow and there by feed controversy; play up drama and conflict.
Does that mean that the fundamental mission of journalism — to find answers to incisive questions; to explore and reveal the world around us; to gather and check facts and report back; to challenge authority — ought to be left in the wings while we make enough money to get us past this rough patch?
Tim Robbins, actor, director and activist, had a few things to say about that during the National Association of Broadcasters conference, which closed last week.
Maybe we the public don’t need the things Robbins is talking about, but clearly, the numbers show us it’s what people are paying attention to. On the other hand, in surveys and day-to-day conversation, people say they want something better than what’s on offer.
So I ask: As a member of the public — not as a journalist — what kinds of stories do you seek out? How do you spend your time when you’re not working on news? And if you’re not in the media business, what do you spend your time looking for, reading and watching? And what aren’t you finding that you’d like to find?