Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Does Journalism Have a Future? | The New Yorker

From a journalism reality check by Jill Lepore
"The broader problem is that the depravity, mendacity, vulgarity, and menace of the Trump Administration have put a lot of people, including reporters and editors, off their stride. The present crisis, which is nothing less than a derangement of American life, has caused many people in journalism to make decisions they regret, or might yet. In the age of Facebook, Chartbeat, and Trump, legacy news organizations, hardly less than startups, have violated or changed their editorial standards in ways that have contributed to political chaos and epistemological mayhem. Do editors sit in a room on Monday morning, twirl the globe, and decide what stories are most important? Or do they watch Trump’s Twitter feed and let him decide? It often feels like the latter. Sometimes what doesn’t kill you doesn’t make you stronger; it makes everyone sick. The more adversarial the press, the more loyal Trump’s followers, the more broken American public life. The more desperately the press chases readers, the more our press resembles our politics.

The problems are well understood, the solutions harder to see. Good reporting is expensive, but readers don’t want to pay for it. The donation-funded ProPublica, “an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force,” employs more than seventy-five journalists. Good reporting is slow, good stories unfold, and most stories that need telling don’t involve the White House. The Correspondent, an English-language version of the Dutch Web site De Correspondent, is trying to “unbreak the news.” It won’t run ads. It won’t collect data (or, at least, not much). It won’t have subscribers. Like NPR, it will be free for everyone, supported by members, who pay what they can. “We want to radically change what news is about, how it is made, and how it is funded,” its founders state. Push-notifications-on news is bad for you, they say, “because it pays more attention to the sensational, exceptional, negative, recent, and incidental, thereby losing sight of the ordinary, usual, positive, historical, and systematic.” What will the Correspondent look like? It will stay above the fray. It might sometimes be funny. It’s slated to d├ębut sometime in 2019. Aside from the thing about ads, it sounds a lot like a magazine, when magazines came in the mail."
Does Journalism Have a Future? | The New Yorker

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