Today's Journalism

Education vs. Reality

 

Driven by corporate imperatives like cost cutting and revenue growth, whole sectors of the news business now tilt toward "infotainment" and soft features.

In the last several decades the ability of news organizations to provide probing and insightful information has been compromised.

Discerning readers and viewers are right to ask why they aren't reading or watching reports on issues like terrorism or fraud before such stories break, not after.

Michael Janeway, director of the National Arts Journalism Program at
Columbia University, and former editor of The Boston Globe
.


Professor Janeway of Columbia University says that journalism today is tilted toward "infotainment," and that probing and insightful information is being compromised.

Few journalists or discerning media consumers would disagree.

However, adding depth to journalism education, as laudable as that might be, does not address the real problem.

The issue underlying most any criticism of journalism today is that the management of the major news media tends to focus on corporate profits.

Profits are based on ratings or readership, which are based on the number of people (of the appropriate demographics) who "tune in" (read, listen, or watch).

To maximize these numbers the broadcast media in particular use techniques that can only be described as "discrete pandering." 

These techniques tend to be ignored in journalism schools that have curricula more in tune with realities of the 1960s when news departments were well insulated from their advertising and sales divisions.

In some ways the jobs of today's print and broadcast news directors are becoming like those of football coaches. They are based on "winning."

Consequently, many news directors pressure journalists to do what it takes to try to keep profits high and jobs safe.  When a competing news outlet starts losing ground against this type of game strategy they tend to compete by trying to "out pander" their competition.

As media conglomerates continue to focus on the short-term economic advantages in fluffed up and dumbed down news, the public becomes less and less informed on the complex and important issues of the day.

In the long run this makes it more difficult to sell newspapers and to hold broadcast audiences with legitimate news. A vicious cycle is created that not only further imperils the credibility of the news media, but the future of any government that depends on an informed citizenry.


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