The Collapse of Journalism and the Journalism of Collapse



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Apocalypic & Prophetic Journalism thrived only...

...when people lived in communities that saw the well-being of all people, the life-support of all people, to be a community's primary purpose. Amos, Hosea, Isaiah (all three of them) and Jeremiah still had their living needs met, no matter how much the upset those in power.

Today, we have no such luxury. Those who would be journalists have to be free to carry out their craft, and to be today's prophets. However, they have to eat. Someone has to pay them if they are to have that freedom to carry out their craft without starving. The model that has evolved has been our current, advertising-supported news outlets.

What that model has done, in corrupting all of us, has gotten us used to FREE news sources; i.e., news sources which we can read or watch and not have to pay for them, directly. While Benjamin Franklin may have had the first print advertisement in his Philadelphia newspaper, then, people had to pay to get news, or stories. Think about how many stories (fiction and non-fiction) from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries came serialized: they would stretch over numerous numbers of issues of the same publication---for which the readers had to pay or to which they had to subscribe. The tipping point of our journalistic endeavors into what Jensen called "Royal Journalism" is when publications began to receive more income from advertising than they did from subscriptions.

Church publications like United Methodist Reporter was well-liked, as long as the combination of advertising and Annual Conferences paying for it to be their Conference Newsletter could create enough income to pay the reporters and editors thereof. But as Annual Conferences had budgetary problems, they stopped paying for UMR to be sent to all of its members. The advert of the internet made relatively free dissemination of news even more possible, cutting off the income needed to keep publications going. It also allowed us to keep moving into the era where we expected to get all of our news without out-of-pocket from ourselves.

This has even been a problem with UM Insight: what began with a grant (i.e., free to tall of us) got to the point where contributions had to be solicited to keep this publication going. Like Public Radio & TV, the appeals for contributions became its advertising.

The same for most small newspapers today. The New York Times proudly puts on its bannerhead, "All the News That's Fit to Print." Most small newspapers could put on their bannerhead, "All the news that fits (around our ads) we print."

Until we become willing to pay for the news, the prophecy, and the apocolyptics we crave (and need), this problem will persist. Otherwise, journalism of all kinds today will become victims of a phrase that came out of the Watergate investigations: "Follow the money."

Tom Griffith more than 8 years ago

Deregulation and 24 hour news

As a student of journalism in the 1980s, I witnessed something unfolding... the federal deregulation of journalism and the growing corporate ownership and media conglomeration, combined with 24-hour "news sources" that now are news reels run in the middle of the night, when late-breaking news occurs with no tending. The 4th estate has effectively crumbled and is giving way to a new so-called 5th estate. ( We are standing on shaky, uncertain ground. For too long editorial has not been separated from advertising, if only by "wink wink" knowing glances, as long intended. Just take a look at your top print magazines. Most, if not all of the content, is advertorials. Scarcely is there any "news" anymore. All I can say is, if William Randolph Hearst were alive today, he would have a field day.

Kim Benson more than 8 years ago