Teaching Examples

Beyond fact finding: Journalism’s next steps
January 11, 2007, 2:37 pm
Filed under: future, innovation, journalism, news, newspapers

Mitchell Stephens wrote the best-ever journalism history book, A History of News (3rd edition: 2006). It’s more than a mere textbook; it’s a real history, well written and thoroughly researched.

Stephens also wrote a spot-on essay about newspapers in the November-December issue of Columbia Journalism Review. It’s insightful and fresh.

Here are three of many wise thoughts in the essay:

[1] In a day when information pours out of digital spigots, stories that package painstakingly gathered facts on current events — what happened, who said what, when — have lost much of their value…. Selling what is elsewhere available free is difficult, even if it isn’t nineteen hours stale. Just ask an encyclopedia salesman, if you can find one.

[2] There will continue to be room, of course, for some kinds of traditional, thoroughly sourced reporting: exclusives, certainly. Investigations, certainly. That’s something extra. Yahoo isn’t in a position to muckrake.

But the extra value our quality news organizations can and must regularly add is analysis: thoughtful, incisive attempts to divine the significance of events — insights, not just information. What is required — if journalism is to move beyond selling cheap, widely available, staler-than-your-muffin news — is, to choose a not very journalistic-sounding word, wisdom.

[3] … an ability to go and get is simply no longer sufficient. The best journalistic organizations are going to be selling the best thinking on current events — and that often is furthered by deep, directed study.

Just a few more ideas about what REAL change would be — in the business of journalism.

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

To provide meaningful analysis, you must be an expert.

How many reporters are really experts in the fields they cover?

Yet, there are an army of bloggers who are experts in just about every field. For example, I trust Eugene Volokh on law more hhthan any legal reporter I know.

So the question becomes, is this a real value proposition? Is this an area of competitive advantage to provide sufficient differentiation (to throw a little MBA lingo on the topic).

Comment by Howard Owens

Just because there are not experts today does not mean we can’t have experts in the future, yes?

I’ve heard of people who have covered a beat for years (e.g., education, environment) going back to get a master’s degree in that subject. Not everyone can afford this, of course. But it would make the journalism better, in my opinion.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

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