I left the news business years ago and I’m glad I did. Everyone I know who is still a print or broadcast journalist is either looking for a way out or is anxious about whether they will still have a job a year from now.
They should be worried. News organizations were notoriously slow in catching on to the digital revolution. And despite some limited success by companies like the New York Times, they still haven’t hit on a business model that ensures a successful future.
The Pew Research Center’s most recent State of the News Media report says newspaper industry revenue has shrunk 43% since 2000. Meanwhile, the report says technology giants like Google and Facebook are gobbling up revenue. In 2011, the report says “five technology companies accounted for 68% of all online ad revenue…By 2015, Facebook is expected to account for one out of every five digital display ads sold.”
In 2011, the report shows the online audience grew about 17%. For the first time in years, audiences for network and local TV news actually grew but not by much. The radio audience also inched up, but more people are listening to online only services using their smartphones and mobile devices. Many new car models are internet-ready. Magazines and newspapers continued to hemorrhage readers.
The technology giants are also creating partnerships with news organizations. ABC News and Yahoo. AOL and the Huffington Post. Facebook Social Reader and the Washington Post.
What I’m most concerned about is where I’m going to get my news and whether I can trust what’s out there in the future. I echo concerns expressed by Dan Gillmor in his introduction to We the Media. Who will do the investigative reporting? What will happen to the local reporting in my state or community? And as Gillmor writes, “Credibility matters.” Without credible journalism organizations, “we may be left with the equivalent of countless pamphleteers and people shouting from soapboxes.”
Gillmor is somewhat optimistic about grassroots journalism, the prospects for “global conversation” and citizen journalists. But with all due respect to citizen journalists, I tend to agree with Morley Safer who once said, “I would trust citizen journalism as much as I would trust citizen surgery.”