These are the remaining two questions of the interview with Mr. Collings and, thankfully, it ends on a hopeful note.
6: Where do you typically get your news from? TV, online, newspaper, print, radio?
A: All of the above. Because it’s my job. I’m teaching Communication studies, so I need to know what’s being reported, so all day long I’m just going through everything.
- Knowing his department at Michigan, I should have expected his answer that he goes through all of the media formats all day long. Not owning a television of my own, I rely on the internet as the main source of my news and way to stay informed. According to the State of the News Media 2011 report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, more Americans say that they get their news online rather than from print newspapers. This 2011 report says this is the first time online has surpassed print newspapers. A graphic from that report illustrates the recent rise of the online category and the long decline of the newspaper category:
7: How can quality journalism survive?
A: I don’t know, but one promising development has been that a number of news organizations have been partnering with non-profits. And there are non-profit investigative journalism organizations. For example, one’s called ProPublica. Another one’s called Center for Public Integrity. And they have partnered with NYTimes, NBC news, Washington Post, The Atlantic, all kinds of news organizations who couldn’t afford to do this reporting on their own, but by partnering with a non-profit, they can still do the reporting, high-quality reporting, investigative reporting of wrong-doing, exposes, and still be viable.
- As for the timeless question of how quality journalism can survive in this digital, aggregated age, Mr. Collings offers up a couple organizations that provide some hope. According to its website, ProPublica is “an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.” It was formed in 2007, and views itself as an important bulwark of quality reporting in this day and age where investigative reporting is at risk. In fact, it was recently announced that two ProPublica reporters have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for their stories on Wall Street bankers enriching themselves while worsening the financial crisis. This was the second Pulitzer Prize awarded to ProPublica in the past two years.
- The mission of the Center for Public Integrity is “to produce original investigative journalism about significant public issues to make institutional power more transparent and accountable.” As the video above makes clear, the Center, much like ProPublica, serves an invaluable role in our changing society and digitized world to provide a check on institutions and the powerful.
- In addition to these two important investigative news organizations, there are many other groups and coalitions today with similar missions of preserving quality journalism in the 21st century. One such example is the Nieman Journalism Lab, which is a collaborative attempt at Harvard University to “figure out how quality journalism can survive and thrive in the Internet age.” One particularly interesting post from the Nieman Lab from late 2010 was a discussion among a diverse group of media experts about whether or not the New York Times’ paywall model would work in 2011. Most of the experts believed that the model would not work and be phased out before the end of 2011. Personally, I happen to believe that although it probably won’t take in a ton of revenue, it will last much longer than the Times’ previous attempt at a paywall, which only lasted for two years before being lifted.
- Another organization that has existed since 1909, is the Society of Professional Journalists. SPJ is a non-profit organization that seeks to maintain a high quality free press and informed citizenry. In addition, the Poynter Institute is a school that teaches aspiring journalists and media leaders, and “stands for a journalism that informs citizens and enlightens public discourse.
- I believe that non-profit partnerships with news organizations will play a critical role in ensuring that we have an informed citizenry that has access to investigative and hard-hitting exposes and reports. We already seeing this with ProPublica and the Center for Public Integrity. But, I think this change will only be one part of a complicated transformation of the newspaper and journalism industry. There will be many other changes in the media, some of which we have yet to figure out. One of those crazy ideas for changing the media world, specifically increasing newspaper circulation, was the topic of a TED talk in 2009. Jacek Utko believes that better design can improve print newspaper circulation by up to 100%, and possible save the newspaper.