Journalists must work harder than ever to produce quality

We blame decreasing news coverage on many things these days. The most common cry is that newsrooms of all kinds are trying to do what they’ve always done with fewer people. We all tried that for a while, but now most have given up. It simply can’t be done.

I saw this piece by Adam Hochberg on the Poynter website today, and it got me thinking about how fortunate it is to be in the business of journalism.

No matter how much staff is cut, space is cut, time is added or deadlines get earlier, journalism marches on. When a lot of businesses are forced to cut back like so many media businesses have most would just shut down and move on to something else. Because journalism is a calling more than it is a job for most of us, we plug away with less to plug away with.

TV newsrooms have lost people, but added programming hours. (Block quotes below are taken from Hochberg’s article.)

We’re doing six and a half hours of live programming a day, and we’ve got a lot of space to fill with a pretty small newsroom.

The 24/7 news cycle and, of course, fewer people, cause us to go with stories that are “good enough.”

It’s likely that a local journalist, given time to report the story in his or her own community, could have produced a more informed, more original, and certainly more local examination of consumers’ holiday spending. But many newsrooms don’t have enough reporters to assign one to that story.

More and more local papers and stations are gobbled up by big chains with no interest or knowledge of the local market. They too often apply broad policies across their properties. Different things are expected by different audiences.

Many of these stations are now owned by national corporate owners who have little interest in investing in news reporting in the local market.

The best we can do — and what I tell my students — is to not be lazy. I fear adversity to doing the job we used to be able to do causes apathy and laziness. We have to work harder than ever before. The suits will see us getting by and think we have all we need. We know that’s not true, but what choice do we have.

By the way, I do think TV stations have too many hours of news. I was talking about that with my father-in-law the other day and he said he remembered with local news did 15 minutes and Cronkite did 15 minutes and that was it. Maybe TV stations would be better served to be shorter and better.

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