CNET English 100
March 26, 2010
THE FUTURE OF NEWS
In his article “The Race,” published in the March/April 2007 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review, American journalist and economist Robert Kuttner explores the complex financial and journalistic issues currently facing the ailing newspaper industry. As global Internet usage continues to grow exponentially, newspaper companies are struggling to maintain both readership levels and profitability. While large print newspapers are often part of media conglomerates with millions to invest in digital distribution, mid-sized firms are experiencing much more difficulty transitioning to and profiting from creating digital content. Newspaper publishers that expand their presence to include online and digital offerings of their existing products while ensuring journalistic quality will weather the economic storm facing their industry.
A number of critics of the print news industry argue that the Internet allows the news creation process to be more democratic and interactive, allowing anyone to create and share news material. They make the valid point that online technologies have a powerful ability to draw in the masses and involve them directly in the production and distribution of information. However, they fail to take into account the important role that quality journalism plays in our society, and the impact that skilled, trained writers have on news production. Indeed, Kuttner’s colleague admitted that although the Internet allows him to process more news on a daily basis, he has noticed that “the best material on the Internet consistently comes from Web sites run by print organizations.”
The fact that print newspapers are producing material that is of a much higher calibre than online blogs and other websites substantiates the argument that quality print journalism remains essential in modern society, although not necessarily in its existing form. Newspapers must create quality digital and online content to serve the growing masses who seek out information on the Internet in order to remain relevant and profitable in our digital culture. Although the average profit margins for newspaper divisions have been measured to be 17.8 percent as recently as 2006, “newspaper stocks lagged the S&P 500 … by 21 percent.” This clearly demonstrates the lack of faith that Wall Street has in the newspaper industry in its current state, and illustrates the need for newspaper publishers to re-examine and adapt their business models to become what Kuttner refers to as “print-digital hybrids.”
It remains to be seen if newspapers can maintain their existing print businesses in the future, but there is no doubt that news publishers need to expand their offerings to include online and digital products if they are to survive. In our modern digital culture, it is becoming increasingly important for publishers to embrace technological advancements in order to improve readership, profitability, and investor confidence. The development of print-digital hybrids necessitated by the current economic situation will allow the newspaper industry to survive by fusing technological innovation and journalistic quality. Whether print newspapers remain after this transition is less important than their ability to expand and diversify their businesses “without losing the culture that makes them uniquely valuable.”
Word count: 499
Kuttner, Robert. “The Race: Newspapers can make it to a bright print-digital future after all—but only if they run fast and dodge Wall Street.” Columbia Journalism Review 45.6 (2007): 24-32. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 5 Mar. 2010.