Does Journalism Still Have a Future?

Oset Babur in Harvard Magazine:

FON_Collage_wbAnn Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard, began the lively discussion by noting, “We are, in all our media, a nation screaming past each other”—making it difficult to listen to dissenting opinions, and almost impossible to understand where people on the other side of the aisle are coming from. That divide helped make the 2016 election cycle one of the most polarizing in this nation’s history. Lydia Polgreen, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, said, “We’re seeing a collapse of empathy in journalism…the problem this election cycle wasn’t that we didn’t write about them [Americans who voted for Donald Trump], it’s that we didn’t write for them.” Polgreen emphasized the need for journalism to remind readers of its blue collar roots by explaining its methods and goals more clearly. Only then, she argued, will the industry seem less like an elite club that caters only to small, affluent subsets of New England, the tristate New York area, or the Bay area of coastal California.

All the panelists talked about the importance of truth-seeking in quality journalism — and acknowledged that this kind of work requires resources that many outlets don’t have. The challenge, then, is to find a way to get well-endowed publications with relatively greater reporting resources like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to capture subscribers who have been flocking to smaller, more partisan outlets for their news, because they haven’t found a voice that represents them in major outlets. Gerard Baker, editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal said, “Over the last few decades, we’ve been watching an erosion of trust in so many institutions of civil society, including government, big business, church, and journalism…almost every institution, except for the military.” While it’s unlikely that journalists will ever enjoy the kind of sustained popularity that the military has, New York Times columnist David Leonhardt talked about the value of gaining subscribers over mere online clicks, as well as the importance of forming trusting relationships with readers by putting reporters on the ground, where they can do extensive legwork and reporting to get a piece right. Optimistically, Leonhardt argued that this kind of hard work is what readers crave and need to start trusting the news again.

More here.

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