Are newspapers dead? Not yet, says Stephen Colbert. At least not when we have old-school reporters taking to the streets in search of a scoop. The nose for news can still smell, as exhibited by this package that ran on The Colbert Report last week.
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Coming from a journalism program right next door to a state capital, teaching basic news reporting in a small-town setting has taken some adjusting. Certainly, the bar for newsworthiness must be lowered if you ever want to allow student reporters to roam free and actually find something to write about before the deadline. Covering a meeting – one of the assignments toward the middle of the semester – has to be issued over a month in advance in order to give students adequate time to find a newsworthy proceeding (last year, the Magnolia city council, which only meets once a month anyway, decided to cancel their monthly meeting in that period, throwing a group of students into panic).
So, “Too hot to fish” rings true around these parts.
The really interesting part of the story was the news ecology angle. The New York Times article Colbert references is real, but it’s not about the story so much as it’s about how the story spread to social media, radio stations, other newspapers, Colbert’s program, and eventually to the Times.
That’s how our modern day news aggregators operate, and it is a problem the news media has yet to solve. Consumers seek out large media outlets, providing them with revenues, or the page views necessary to obtain it, but these large outlets are simply reporting on reporting already performed by smaller outlets that are struggling to make ends meet.
The folks doing the reporting are going broke. The folks browsing Twitter are
rolling in the dough going less broke.
That’s a business model even Bobby Kirk will tell you doesn’t add up.