Too Important to Fail – “old” media provides a reality check

Posted by: in Integrated Communications, Social Media Insights & Trends on December 2, 2011

“New media vs old media;” “Print vs. Facebook;” “Twitter vs. full-length article;” “Out with the old and in with the new.”  There are many opinions out there on how media and information exchange will evolve, but does it have to be so black and white?

In the documentary Page One – we get an insider’s view into The New York Times and its struggle, like many print publications, to stay afloat.  Print is in a constant tug-of-war with the Internet, social media and online advertising. Sites like Craigslist and Yelp have stripped away the need for classifieds.  Google AdWords and companies designed to manage a brand’s online ad presence have really pinched print in all the wrong budgetary places. As a result, long-time reporters are being laid off and papers across the U.S. are going the way of the answering machine.

But not all change is good, and this particular transformation, so quickly, may not benefit us in the end.  I’m not suggesting a bail-out of newspapers and magazines, but I am suggesting a reality check that we need some of these publications because they have a direct link to the success of social media.

It all comes down to resources.  On the one hand, citizen journalism is important and it plays a role in our collective global knowledge.  Without it, we wouldn’t  have seen the debut of WikiLeaks on YouTube or the formation of a revolution in the Middle East via Twitter (Arab Spring.)

But newspapers as big as The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal have resources that blog writers and Twitter users don’t.  Large, established print publications have staff writers and budgets that support covering stories in other countries.  These staff writers, more often than not, have extensive experience and journalistic pride to uncover the truth and track – forthrightly – their sources.  They can spend weeks digging into a story that can unveil the facts in a way that a quick blurb after some mild suspicions or quick Internet research can not.  David Carr, one of the featured writers in Page One, is the media and culture columnist for TNYT and has a life story that is the stuff of novels.  Pulling himself out of two decades of cocaine addiction, Carr eventually landed at the Times after successfully covering the publishing and media industries at various other publications.  His background is journalism, but he’s recently been forced to acknowledge the social change all around him – even at the Times.

Eleven years ago, I graduated with a Master’s in journalism with an emphasis on medical reporting and radio.  My first job, however, was as a PR manager with a local hospital system.  I was afraid to do “real journalism,” as we students liked to call it, because I didn’t see the future in it.  Radio was a dying medium and print didn’t look so hopeful either. As much as I wanted to remain true to my roots in reporting, I chose a career managing reporters, and now the social web.

I’m currently living through the revolution in communication.  And yet, because of my respect for traditional media, I find it crucial to maintain some aspects of the fourth estate as it was known for so long because it still adds credibility and value to content.

New media companies like Gawker, Huffington Post and Newser begin to blur the lines a little because they maintain a staff of writers.  But, even these new media outlets lean toward the quick reveal, the sense of urgency and the flair for the dramatic at times.  Even these outlets have been known to get their most intriguing, substantiated reports from the old-school papers.  Even these outlets know that they too need content from credible publications like The New York Times to ultimately succeed.

And why not work together?  Why not create an amazing, integrated, content model that supports some of the old way, with established columnists and editors, and combines it with new media, offering up YouTube videos, Twitter and other social content?

In many ways, this type of model offers us a reality check and balances on the truth.  So, it need not be so black and white.  Leave that to the old printing presses.


By: Katie Macdonald

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3 Responses

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  1. Katie – great insight. What an amazing documentary, eh? I like the way you’ve framed this — old media is too important to fail — and that’s coming from a guy that is a serial new media guy. The key is, we need institutions like NY Times, NPR, WSJ, etc. that go the extra mile to uncover the things that softer outlets (including some mainstream blogs) don’t always get around to. Why this is critically important is that it keeps the equivalent of a fourth branch of government around to make sure checks and balances stay in place. Thanks for taking the time to summarize.

  2. Stephan said

    It’s not the ‘old media’, it’s the people that know how to write interesting stories. You have to seperate the content from it’s carrier. Creators always have used the best tools available to show the world their work.

  3. meredith hight said

    I second all of the above!

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