BTW – the Post is ALSO planning to increase the workload of some of its news staff as they work to be a part of a new AM service on the old WTOP AM (“NPR on caffeine,” so they say).
That column from March 13 is most chilling to me. While cable TV, news websites, blogs and more are filling up with opinion and “live” coverage, the actual work of covering issues, industries and trends over time looks to be getting strained ever further.
In public radio, stations and networks are trying to expand coverage and journalism work, but we have a long way to go. When you ponder the reductions at the Washington post, one must remember that the WP still has about as many news reporters as National Public Radio has employees. Yet, if you add in all of the reporters in public radio as a whole and the industry may actually have as many journalists working nation and world-wide to match or exceed the Post.
But our efforts are not well coordinated, our coverage often relies on our print colleagues for many of our leads. While media outlets cross-pollinate all the time, journalism relies on having sources, building relationships and finding out the true story beyond public pronouncements, press releases and self-interested spin. This takes time – and people.
The dual challenge is to have journalists being productive and efficient in producing content for multiple uses and platforms, but ALSO allowing for time to learn and discover. Discovery doesn’t do very well from an anchor desk or a pundit’s chair. Discovery does even less well on chat shows where journalists/talent must be creating content non-stop. The best chat shows have many people working behind the scenes gathering the best guests, getting the best information and keeping people on their toes.
This isn’t to say that public radio isn’t doing outstanding journalism and breaking stories. Nina Totenberg filed a remarkable story on a recent speech by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor that is only now gaining traction in the rest of the media world.
The role of the Fourth estate is being challenged. In a world where a person can readily find opinons that reinforce personal beliefs and preferences, how will we allow for discovery and the vetting of information to test its veracity? Blogs can sometime do a good job of truth-squadding, but breaking through the noise is getting more and more difficult.
It would seem that mass media still has a place…but will it be able to fill it?