The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade often can be counted on for an interesting and accurate take on the state of journalism.
Just not today.
Today, in a stunning and sweeping mea non culpa, Greenslade, a journalism professor and former reporter and editor, looks at the shrinking audience for newspapers and echoes The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi in a clear and ringing voice: “Don’t blame us!”
There cannot be any doubt that journalists themselves – the reporters, sub-editors, photographers, feature writers, columnists, page designers – cannot be held responsible for either the financial woes of the industry nor for the public turning its back on the “products” that contain their work.
In case that’s not clear enough, here it is more succinctly, in his own words: “It isn’t our fault.”
Greenslade correctly points out many of the other factors that come into play – including the general economic turmoil, bad management and changing media-consumption habits – but for him to say that the content itself has no part – no part at all – in the decline strikes me as ludicrous, and a marker for how deluded some still are.
Any other business with declining market share since The Eisenhower Administration would at least consider that the product might be part of the problem.
Otherwise, you’re just blaming your audience for being too stupid to appreciate all you’ve done for them.
UPDATE: Steve Yelvington, as usual, has a thoughtful and reasoned take on this topic:
The deck is stacked against the newspaper, but newsrooms are not powerless victims in the grip of some irreversible cosmic force. There is still high demand for effective local mass advertising solutions. Newspapers can be that solution — in fact, they could be the last mass medium standing.
But you can’t do it with a 20 percent market penetration, and that’s what you’ll have if you continue producing a 1968 newspaper in 2008.