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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Decline of Journalism

Get your mind around this: A fake news show presents a perceptive story on the decline of real journalism:

Andrew Revkin writes at The New York Times:
There’s been a flurry of blog, Facebook andTwitter shock and anger following Katherine Bagley’s exclusive report for Inside Climate News on the decision by The New York Times to shut down its standalone environment “pod” and redistribute that able team of reporters and editors to other desks (not necessarily other duties).
In the piece, top Times editors insist that this move will not diminish or dilute the paper’s commitment to sustained, effective environmental coverage.
I believe them (with a caveat; see below). In a century when the roots of environmental problems often lie half a planet away (consider the ivory trade, or the contribution of greenhouse gases and soot to Arctic ice melting) what’s needed most is collaborative post-departmental journalism, not individual desks and editors competing for the front page.
Others with lots of journalism experience have different views. My friend Dan Fagin, who teaches journalism at New York University after a long career at Newsday, posted this reaction on my Facebook item on the development this morning:
[W]ithout a designated staff your editor would have to rely completely on borrowing reporters from other desks, and editors on those desks would get no credit from management for any environmental stories their borrowed reporters produce. Meanwhile, the reporters themselves would feel the pressure from their desk editors — the editors who do their evaluations — to stay on their own desks. It sets up an adversarial system that has already failed in many newsrooms. The best solution is what the Times has sadly dismantled: a small dedicated staff with diverse skills AND the ability to tap other expert writers when appropriate.
... And here’s the caveat. What’s happening in the paper’s newsroom (and much more so in other newsrooms!) is not specific to the environment. As today’s post noted, the religion and education desks have had a smilar fate.