Week4: A New Wave of Journalism Hits the Nation

8 Feb

Thibodaux –alt024@ufl.edu 

Google Doc

The journalism landscape has changed so much over the past decade, I’m almost certain that the hard-nosed  journalists of old — guys like Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward —  wouldn’t recognize it.  Journalists no longer have days or weeks to craft a story to perfection.  The competition is fierce, and if the story isn’t written well and timely, someone else will write it first.  It’s no longer necessary to work for a publication to be considered a journalist — if you have access to a computer and knowledge on any topic then you are capable of reaching an audience.  If you’re good, you can build that audience, draw the attention of advertisers and make some money.  All from the comforts of home.  Old-school journalism is for the birds.

As New York Times writer David Carr explains, the business of traditional print journalism is steadily declining.  If a publication fails to adapt to the changing times, it’s doomed, and so are its employees.  Unless, according to Carr, you are the CEO of a major newspaper corporation, such as USA Today.  In Carr’s article, “Why Not Occupy Newsrooms,” he explains that the company that owns USA Today and 81 other newspapers, Gannett, has lost money over the past six years while the CEO, Craig A. Dubow, has made a sizeable profit.  Even though Gannett’s stock price declined to about $10 a share from a high of $75 the day after Dubow took over, and the number of employees at Gannett plummeted to 32,000 from about 52,000, Dubow is still exiting the company of his own accord.  Not because he was pushed out, but because of health reasons.   To make matters more confusing, Gannett brought in Gracia C. Martore, the company’s president and chief operating officer, who had previously been Dubow’s accomplice in working the cost side of the business.  With the former business model not working, one would expect Gannett to make some major leadership changes within the company — but instead, the company kept the same failing principles while handing out additional bonus money to the new top executives.  Meanwhile, lower workers within the company, mainly journalists, are being laid off and paid less because of profit losses.  This method of conducting business is flawed to say the least.

Gannett and its companies have given way to a new wave of journalism, known as content farming.  A content farm is a website that generates a large quantity of content specifically designed to rank high in search engine results.  The purpose of this is to create a huge amount of information on one site as fast as possible, while making sure that the concept of SEO is implemented.  Generally the writers who contribute to these sites are paid much less than the average journalist, but have the capabilities to write more stories — sometimes four in one hour. These stories can pay between $15-$20 per article, with the editors receiving around $3.50 per edited article.  One such example of a content farm is Patch.com.  Patch.com is a news source that has writers who cover a large number of cities and states throughout the country.  The story ideas are endless, and the content is tailored to what the local residents of any given city want.  Although this may not be considered traditional journalism, I do believe it is a kind of journalism — 21st century journalism.  The success that content farms have experienced proves that people want these kind of websites to exist and that they will support them. 

Despite a survey conducted by The Reynolds Journalism Institute in August and October of 2011, I still believe that traditional print journalism is declining.  The 2011 Community Newspaper Readership Study revealed that three-fourth of residents (74 percent) in small cities and towns in the United States read a local newspaper ranging from one day to seven days a week, and a  majority of the readers (81 percent) relied on the newspapers for local news and information.  While this may be true, content farms like Patch.com and Examiner.com are providing some real competition for local newspapers, and  these “new-age journalists” are cashing in.

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