The Locker Room

The changing news business

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 8:41 PM

Jonathan Alter might be displaying some evidence of sour grapes as he describes in his latest Newsweek column the declining role of mainstream media. But he does make an interesting point about the future of news:

Like Thomas Paine and the ideological pamphleteers who provoked the American Revolution, bloggers help enliven and expand public debate. They are indispensable aggregators of political news.

But we're finding this works better for keeping on top of daily flaps than for learning genuinely new information. Bloggers rarely pick up the phone or go interview the middle-level bureaucrats who know the good stuff. It's a lot easier to chew over breaking stories and bash old media. Where do they get the information with which to bash? Often from, ahem, newspapers.

Which are shriveling this year. Talk is cheap and reporting is expensive. Anyone can sit at home pontificating in PJs (I've done it myself), but it costs nearly $1.5 million a year for a bureau in Baghdad. As newspapers lay off hundreds of reporters in the face of assaults on their classified advertising by the likes of Craigslist, who will actually dig for the news? A few sites (e.g., are getting into the game. But eventually, Google and other search engines will have to form consortiums to subsidize the gathering of news. Otherwise there won't be anything worth searching for.

Didn't some wise sage write something once about the Founders being bloggers? Regardless, people interested in Alter's topic will likely enjoy the podcast of Program No. 269 of Carolina Journal Radio, in which Jon Ham discusses the current state of the news business.

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