Sunday, March 16, 2008

WBUR's Radio Boston--Breaking News

It seems everyone in the world of journalism is talking about the future of print media...or better yet, if print media even has a future. This was the topic of WBUR's weekly show, Radio Boston with host David Boeri. The show included commentary from the media world including former Boston Globe assistant editor, Stephen Kurkjian and Northeastern University professor and Media Nation blogger, Dan Kennedy.

Amidst the Globe's recent announcement for its voluntary buyout program, which will reduce the staff by 80 people, the newspaper, along with other struggling Boston paper, the Herald, is trying its best to adapt to the new media world. But circulation and job cuts have continued to drop throughout the years.

On the show, Boston Globe editor Marty Baron joined the discussion for a couple of minutes. He noted that this is a time for reinvention, saying, "We are in a new world--a new media world, an it's increasingly a digital world--and we have to adapt to that."

The Globe's attempt at adaptation is evident in its Web site which serves as a dominant news source in the Boston area. These types of newspaper sites are popping up all over and have proved valuable as an Associated Press article reports that online audiences grew about 6 percent for newspapers in 2007. The problem is, Kurkjian points out, finding a proper online business model that will earn newspapers a profit.

For now, the Globe has focused on its local coverage and cut back on its foreign and national coverage. Kurkjian thinks this is a good way for newspapers to stay afloat--by focusing on beats and continuing with enterprise and investigative journalism.

But newspapers like the Cape Cod Times have received competition in local coverage from sites like Cape Cod Today, a site run by blogger Walter Brooks which is made up of 150 Cape Cod bloggers that cover local stories.

Through reporting by WBUR's Meghna Chakrabarti, it's clear that there is a disconnect between "old media" journalists and "new media" journalists. There is a misconception that bloggers are writing "in their pajamas and slippers from the basement of their mother's house" (as one Cape Cod Today blogger noted).

I have to admit, I'm currently in my pajamas and, yes, in my basement. But not my mother's basement. My bedroom just happens to be in the basement of my apartment. But regardless, that doesn't mean there aren't a lot of legitimate blogging journalists.

Kennedy pointed out that it was a blogger (Joshua Marshall of Talking Points Memo) that won the George Polk Award. It was a big step for new media and it was covered in a New York Times article appropriately titled, Blogger, Sans Pajamas, Rakes Muck and a Prize.

The role of blogging was recently discussed in class and there seemed to be a general consensus that there is a range of blogging which serves all different purposes. On the lower tier, there are blogs like mine and millions of others that share their thoughts on every subject under the sun. It provides connectivity and communication. On a middle tier, there are those like newspaper blogs which act as a supplement of more information for news stories. On a higher tier there are blogs like TPM that serve a purpose of original reporting and investigating to find the latest news. They are journalists in every sense of the word. This kind of variety makes the role of blogging very ambiguous in the world of journalism but it's safe to say there is value in it.

New media has the newspaper business shaking but it is those that embrace it that will be able to benefit from it. The Washington Post launched a series called The Future of Journalism and recently interviewed Jim Brady, the executive editor of When asked if he thinks digital journalism is a complete breakaway from traditional standards or a part of the continuity, I thought he summed it up well:

I think it's part of the continuity. New forms of delivery come up and previously existing forms need to adapt to these changes. There are now new forms of journalism and storytelling through video, picture galleries, databases and more. It's just a different way to deliver information. But in the past print, TV and radio have all figured out how to adapt and reposition themselves when new channels have emerged. Digital neither compromises nor changes the standards for journalism.

Radio Boston's discussion was an interesting one and provided a lot of insight into the current issues of newspapers. There is indeed much that has changed and much that will continue to change and it's not easy to predict where the road will take journalism. Let's just say it's going to be a bumpy ride.

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