Why are newspapers failing?
Sit back and relax. This will be brief. More to explore later when the urge strikes.
Newspapers are not failing because of the Web. They’re failing because they’re tired.
“Daddy, you are one sorry sonofabitch,” says Robert Duvall in The Apostle.
Well, the newspaper industry has grown sorry. Fat and sorry. Too many reporters getting too many stories through the telephone. Too many reporters writing twice a week. Too little freedom of expression. Too cozy with local pols. Too arrogant to listen to the readers and their own hearts.
Too damned stuck in tired textbook models – six kinds of ledes, three ways to organize the news story, eight words WE never use…
At the top of the blame list sat journalism educators spoon feeding the same tired rules, the same tired advice, the same tired narratives to students who were tired of journalism even before they graduated. It was, and is, the most vicious of circles.
What we needed, and need, to do as educators is stop training journalists and start teaching journalists. We’ve been training them to replicate all those tired ideas for jobs which are now rapidly disappearing. What is wrong with this picture?
We need to give them room to think, ideas to challenge and the energy of innovation.
It is probably too late to save newspapers, but it is not too late to save journalism.