The crisis of journalism – and this blog…

Boiled down, this blog is about the intersection of media, publics and social change – with an emphazis on new social & digital media and technological tools that enable each and everyone of us to contribute in new was to both media, publics and the ignitement of social change.

Hence, we’ll be blogging about new technological developments opening new perspectives for social changemakers (as you and I!); about the transformation of publics locally and globally with the rise of citizen journalism as the major revolution these years – and the intense crisis of ‘institutionalised’ journalism on the other; and finally, about the more floffy concept of social change in itself, which we – when busy not writing on this blog – spends a good deal of our time with making sense of…

Quite a few posts from my hand are likely to come in the form of ‘today’s link’, instead of longer pieces on particular issues. Hopefully this can serve you as a reader as inspiration…

Which brings me to… Today’s link – taking the second of the above mentioned bullets as starting point: the crisis of journalism.

While much is being said and written about the crisis – or crises – of journalism – few pieces clears the ground so well as the recent one by Todd Gitlin just published at openDemocracy: Journalisms many Crises.

An early quote sets the scene:

“The surplus of crises has commentators scrambling for metaphors, even mixed ones. The Project for Excellence in Journalism put it this way in a recent report: “The newspaper industry exited a harrowing 2008 and entered 2009 in something perilously close to free fall. Perhaps some parachutes will deploy, and maybe some tree limbs will cushion the descent, but for a third consecutive year the bottom is not in sight.” The newspaper industry in the United States is afflicted with a grave and deepening sense that it is moribund, that the journalistic world they knew is vanishing; that it is melting away not just within their lifetimes but before their eyes.”

Should you prefer the more tangible facts and figures, here’s your meal:

“The numbers virtually shout out that this is not paranoia. Overall, newspaper circulation has dropped 13.5 percent for the dailies and 17.3 percent for the Sunday editions since 2001; almost 5 percent just in 2008. In what some are calling the Great Recession, advertising revenue is down – 23 percent over the last two years – even as paper costs are up. Nearly one out of every five journalists working for newspapers in 2001 is now gone. Foreign bureaus have been shuttered – all those of the Boston Globe, for example, New England’s major paper.”

In a Danish context, the crisis is perhaps not quite as dramatic – yet? – but nevertheless severe. Look for the latest resume of the discussions at the informal and closed meeting of media-managers by Lasse Jensen in Information.dk (in Danish).

Your favourite blogger on this site – that being mr. Anders – already made the prediction a couple of weeks ago that 2009 will se the closing down of one of the major Danish newspapers due to some of the structural difficulties, that Todd Gitlin describes in his great piece.

One important merit of Gitlins approach to the crises is to underscore that it shouldn’t be seen as an economic one alone. It has everything to do with content and coverage as well. Gitlin points to the horrendous coverage of the runup to the Iraq war and the failure to scrutinize the housing bubble as two major failures of institutionalised journalism, which calls for anything but a sole focus on finance when looking at the future of journalism.

(And hey, should you have the time, today’s second link is the original source of much of Gitlins work: Pew’s The State of the News Media)

All for now, Rune

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