The Pew Research Centre’s Project for Excellence in Journalism seems at first to paint a pretty grim picture for the state of news media. However, some of their findings signify for me that, in the long run, the news is going to be OK.
The one figure that really stood out to me was that large online-only newspapers are starting to create original reporting. In fact, the Pew Research Centre suggested that for the first time the new jobs created for online reporters matched the jobs lost by traditional print ones.
I think this is incredibly important, because it signifies that the need for news is not going away. As a journalism student I have had to sit through hundreds of discussions about how there aren’t going to be any more jobs for me, but I never really bought into it. I think that information is one of the most important things to people (the digital revolution that has put so many newspapers under is a testament to this), and because of that, there will always be a place for reporters.
The findings of the Pew Research Centre suggest pretty strongly that there are just as many people reading news as there ever was. So yes, maybe they’re spread out over multiple platforms, and maybe the news industry hasn’t figured out yet these platforms yet, and maybe at this specific moment in time its hard to make money selling news. But these things are not a sign of the decline of news itself: as soon as news organizations figure out the new formats they will start making money again.
My shining beacon of hope for this is the New York Times deciding to charge for its content.
It doesn’t matter that they structured their pay wall in an awkward way. By deciding to charge for their content they have made an important statement: if you want good reporting, you have to pay for it. Concerns about internet users not wanting to pay for content are valid today, but in ten years when it is standard to pay for all good content online, this won’t matter.
People will grumble about having to pay, but they will eventually, because people want news. And while there are some who are content getting it from sketchy internet sources, I believe that a lot of people want thoughtful, accurate and intelligent news – and as long as we are able to create that, people will pay for it.