Tuesday, July 14, 2009...3:43 pm

Why paid journalism is in trouble

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As a coda to my post on why journalists can’t afford to be purist about their trade anymore, Eat Sleep Publish sums up exactly why the paid journalism model is in such trouble.

Former P-I staffer Curt Milton runs theEastlake Ave blog. He keeps a part time job, makes tons of local connections, writes his posts, edits them, and shoots and edits and uploads video and pictures.

It’s simple economics. When one-person publishing costs virtually nothing and can achieve much of what the news dinosaurs can, it’s much harder to make the economics of journalism add up.
And don’t start on how a one-person, part-time neighbourhood blog just can’t offer what a professionally staffed newsroom can. At the local level that simply isn’t true any more. And even nationally, the quality of journalistic output can be pretty ropey. 
Crucially, when you’re at the level of the hyper-local, I suspect a local neighbourhood blog actually does a much better job of reporting than a local paper.


  • how does a blog, a small hyper-local one, make money?
    who is going to pay for said blogger to cover news with any great depth?
    news maybe ropey, but it is far more well placed to cover important matters than a blogger with thousands of readers but who only makes enough to cover his beer money.
    until there is a time when bloggers can give up their day jobs and there are just as many of them as trad. reporters, covering the same topics as trad. reporters, and more besides, then how can they be better than what we have already got in the form of trad. news?

  • freelanceunbound
    July 20th, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    I’m not sure I agree with the “incredible effect” that our output has on the world. Sure, sometimes news reporting makes a difference. Watergate is the classic example, and the coverage of the Vietnam War had profound ramifications (though some argue it was inaccurate).
    But the golden era of investigative journalism is behind us. It’s too expensive to do. And a lot of journalism – I mean a lot – is shallow, trivial and ill-informed.
    One key point is when you say news stories “have massive value”. But to whom? Not, it would seem, readers. They are leaving newspapers in droves. I know you’ve addressed this and the economics of newspapers in another comment, and I’ll respond to that there. But the trend for the qualities is relentlessly down.
    One point I come back to again and again is that journalism as an industry has something of an inflated view of itself compared to the esteem it’s held in by most people outside journalism. That’s kind of what I meant by “the world won’t be that much worse off without us”. It certainly won’t think it’s much worse off.

  • “I’m not sure I agree with the “incredible effect” that our output has on the world”
    When I read a sentance, no matter what its content, am I not being informed of something? Even if it’s just opinion, in that sentance information is being transfered from the writer to the reader.
    If you think of the billions of words that represent billions of facts that media outlets churn out, then to say those words have little value would be to say that facts themselves have little value.

  • *Sentence* and *transferred*.
    Holds head in shame 🙂

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