NickEaton.net


Media renaissance déjà vu
July 9, 2008, 7:29 pm
Filed under: Journalism, News Industry

While reading the incredibly thick “The Powers That Be,” by David Halberstam, I stumbled upon a block quote from Scribner’s Magazine in 1938.

[Edward R. Murrow] has more influence upon America’s reaction to foreign news than a shipful of newspapermen. This influence has not been generally recognized partly for the reason that the newspaper correspondents have tradition on their side, and partly because the networks have played up their commentators rather than their correspondents (like Murrow). But the influence is there, great and growing — and obvious to anyone who knows both radio and the press. Murrow has three advantages over correspondents for the greatest American newspapers: 1. He beats the newspapers by hours; 2. He reaches millions who otherwise have to depend on provincial newspapers for their foreign news; 3. He writes his own headlines. That is to say he emphasizes what he wishes — whereas the newspaper correspondent writes in cablese — then has his copy edited, maybe rewritten and then published under a bank of headlines in which he has no say.

I know it’s been said before, that the advent of the internet is similar to when radio came about and disrupted the old newspaper model, or when TV took hold and changed the media landscape. But really, this idea is worth discussing further.

Everything the writer, Robert Landry, said about Murrow’s advantages (as a radio correspondent) holds true today about bloggers. Bloggers often beat newspapers by hours, often breaking news themselves and feeding newspaper reporters. A blogger can reach far more people than a print newspaper can. And, of course, bloggers write their own headlines.

But, who’s to say none of this holds true today about newspaper websites? Newspapers certainly can and do post stories online long before they show up on your doorstep. Websites have far more audience potential than print. And while reporters don’t write their own headlines online (though sometimes they do at a small paper or even, at times, at a paper such as The Spokesman-Review), reporters with their own blogs can do just the same.

Unlike during the 1930s, when they were solely dead trees, newspapers have the tools and the means to directly counter the threat of the internet. A problem now, admittedly, is that newspapers are far behind where they should be and are playing catch-up. But a newspaper can take as much (if not more) advantage of the internet’s allure as bloggers and other users can.

These days, there’s no excuse. Newspapers shouldn’t have to ultimately cave in. They have all the tools to survive. And, as in the ’30s, they have tradition on their side. Newspapers just need to reach out for the tools and use them.

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