28 Nov 2009
The future of the profession of journalism appears to be in jeopardy, not only in South Africa, but throughout the world.
Local newspapers are posting poor circulation figures, sending jitters throughout the industry, evidenced by an increasing number of articles in the media about the media. Recently, South Africans also witnessed the closure of Business Day's Weekender, a well-known weekly newspaper.
Reasons for the print media's misfortune range from the growth of the Internet, to the recession, to decreasing advertising revenue.
But the challenges faced by the media and the profession of journalism in general are more complex than this.
America's 144-year old, "The Nation" magazine, recently hosted a symposium on the future of journalism, which included panellists from Air America (Ana Marie Cox), the Huffington Post (Nick Penniman) and The Nation magazine itself (John Nichols).
Cox presented interesting insights into the future of political reporting, suggesting a kind of embedded journalism, which clearly represents a threat to democracy.
But it's the bottom line that's putting the most pressure on media houses and shaping the future of journalism.
Tragically, as media houses rationalise staff as well as centralise reporting and editing, producing a kind of template news that is cost effective and easily replicable, investigative and in-depth reporting has become the biggest budget cut casualty.
Penniman proposed private foundation support to shore up investigative reporting. However, Nichols disagreed, arguing that this would not be enough to save journalism.
Watch the clip above for Nichols' input, which is perhaps the most eye opening and sobering of the lot.
He contends that journalism is dying and will be completely wiped out without significant state intervention -- where the state, recognising the important contribution that the media makes to democracy, provides significant subsidies for the industry to sustain itself and support "functional journalism."
To watch Ana Marie Cox's input in this panel discussion, please click here.
To watch Nick Penniman's input in this panel discussion, please click here.
In Trouble for Some Time
Journalism has been in trouble for quite some time. I can only take the silence on my gagging by Media24 as evidence of the corporate complicity with reinforcing systems of privilege. The recent saga of brown envelope journalism is just an example. The yellow journalism of the Independent Group leaves much room to criticise. Dare we suggest the urgent need to resurrect the alternative press which died because of lack of funding?