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There is No Death
Associate professor, University of Missouri at Columbia
I guess I call myself a guerrilla journalist. I have been that way all my life. I love this idea of finding out where the holes are in the media system, jumping in there and competing with them. I’ve done a lot of work in community journalism, rural journalism, suburban journalism, done some urban journalism, competed with Time when I was an intern at Newsweek, that type of thing. I like the idea of competing. Maybe that flavors my view of this, because the idea of a death spiral, I can’t buy it at all.
My whole experience says this isn’t a death spiral. This is the dance of the phoenix. Things burn up, and they come back new. The bad part of that is, it’s not a very pleasant thing to see, burning up. And it’s gotta hurt like hell when it happens, right? But it comes back as something new and beautiful, and it saves the day. . . . and that’s one of the things I want to look at today.
We’ve got two issues here. The perceived failure or problems in the media system, and the actual problems in the media system.
The perceived problem is, hey, nobody’s reading newspapers, newspapers are going out of business, we have so many fewer newspapers than there ever were, blah, blah, blah. ...there’s 8,650 newspapers. Of those, 1,456 are dailies, 7,164 are non-dailies. We get a new one every day or so. The non-daily newspaper business is booming so fast nobody can keep track of it.
You look out on other ways of the mass media, and you see blogs. Has anyone got a good count on blogs? No way. Citizen journalism sites? No way. Bulletin boards? They’re out there all over the place. Posters are all over the place in my town. . . .So is the mass media dying? No. Are things that look like USA Today and reporting poorly on the news dying? Yes.
Instead of looking at the phoenix rebuilding itself into something newer and prettier, we’re looking at trying to save the death spiral or something that probably needs to burn up. . .