It's no secret that the news industry is changing. Radio news journalism, with a few exceptions, is almost non-existent from an actual reporting standpoint. TV news has become excellent at covering :20 sound bites, and flashing lights -- but is an awful format for in-depth journalism.
Which has left us with Newspapers. For decades, newspapers have virtually owned the in-depth reporting in local communities. For information on city government, issues, ballot initiatives, etc, people have relied almost solely on newspapers for information.
It's no secret that the newspaper industry is struggling. In 2009, advertising spending on newspaper is projected to be down -15%, this comes off of 2008, when revenue was down -16% for newspapers. Ouch. That's a 29% decline in revenue in 2 years.
Earlier this year, McClatchy Newspapers announced it would cut 1,150 jobs. This obviously affected our local newspaper, the Kansas City Star -- which slashed about 75-100 jobs this year. But even more frightening was the announcement from the Detroit Free Press in that it will forgo home deliver four days a week -- cutting newspaper deliver to 3 days a week. When the nation's 11th largest metropolitan area can't afford to keep around a 7 day a week newspaper, things are changing -- quickly.
Many newspapers have cut staff so much that they are little more than a whole bunch of syndicated wire stories from around the U.S. The reporting staff that remains, while talented, has far too much news to cover and too little time -- which virtually eliminates in-depth reporting and prevents many stories from having all the appropriate sources interviewed.
For several years, blogs have become as reliable a news source as the newspaper news -- with as much access to insider information, more timely information, and with no more bias than many newspaper stories. Which has led to an interesting concept.
This week, the Oakland Press announced that it will be opening a classroom for citizen journalists. The basic premise is that once trained, citizens can provide occassional stories to the newspaper -- to run either online or in the print edition on a "beat" of their choosing. More ambitious citizen journalists could work their way up to becoming a freelancer.
While not all bloggers would be interested in the restrictions that would come with being a freelance "beat" reporter, a good number would welcome the increased exposure for the news on their topics of interest that comes from being a part of the "newspaper" -- that reaches far beyond their several hundred or thousand page views per day. Meanwhile, the newspaper benefits from having an increased workforce for virtually no cost. Meanwhile, news comes from local folks again, instead of mostly from syndicated services.
I'm not sure if the model will work --(and no, I'm not by any means pleaing for a job)- but I'm sure it needs to be tried. Communities need local "newsies" to keep an eye on their local governments so that governments will operate in the best interests of citizens....because if left unchecked, history tells us they won't.
How ironic that on the 100 year anniversary of the first school of Journalism,the media is out trying to redefine the very definition of what journalism is.