Study Preview The explosion of 24/7 news on television, the Internet, and mobile devices is transforming news gathering and redefining news practices and audience expectations. Traditional avenues for news, sometimes called mainstream media, were shaken in the 2004 political campaign by individuals, mostly without journalistic training, generally operating alone, who created hundreds of blog sites, also called iReports. Bloggers offer an interconnected web of fascinating reading. Sometimes they score scoops.
Learning Objectives By the end of this module you will be able to:
6.6.1 Newsrooms in Transition 1. Objective: Summarize changes to newsroom journalism
Two dynamics are reshaping newsrooms. One is the transition into Internet delivery of news, which is pushing editors to find ways to stretch their staffs to produce their traditional products—plus offer competitive websites. The other dynamic is financial, primarily at newspapers where recent years have seen drastic staff reductions. Newspaper industry reporter Joe Strupp, writing in the trade journal Editor &
Publisher, put it this way: “So with newsrooms shrinking and corporate demands growing, the question inevitably may be asked: ‘What gives?’” Most television newsrooms face the same issue. How can the extra duty of a 24/7 website or perhaps multiple sites, some interactive, be absorbed by existing staff?
The New Realities of the Newsroom
Less Comprehensive Coverage Newsrooms once put lots of energy into catching up on their competitors’ scoops and taking the coverage further. This practice is far less common now, with increased pressures and reduced staff. Ken Paulson, former editor of USA Today, said he applauds the New York Times and Washington Post when they break an exclusive story. Applauds—and forgets it. Said Paulson: “We have to make judgment calls on what our priorities are.”
The new USA Today practice, common in all financially strapped newsrooms, doesn’t speak well for the kind of excellence that competition has generated historically in U.S. journalism. The coverage of historically significant stories, like the Pentagon Papers and Watergate in the 1970s, was marked by intense competition. Independent coverage by competing newsrooms led to revelations that no one news organization could have managed single-handedly. Every breakthrough from competing newsrooms in Watergate, for example, further peeled away at the truth and became a stepping-stone for new rounds of pursuit.
Less Enterprise With smaller, increasingly stretched staffs, newsrooms are opting for easier stories. This has meant a greater quotient of stories that chronicle events and fewer stories that require labor-intensive digging. This further means fewer reporters being freed for what David Boardman, executive editor at the Seattle Times, calls “two- and three-day stories.” There was a time in the lore of the Wall Street Journal that editors would work up a promising story possibility with a veteran reporter, give the reporter an American Express card, and say “Come back with a story in six months.” Although
the Journal still features exhaustive journalistic examinations, they are becoming less common in American journalism and even in the Journal too.
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