Can Journalism be Saved?

Can Journalism be Saved?

Can journalism be saved? That’s the question and the title of Nicholas Lemann’s new piece in the New York Review of Books.

Lemann examines the issue by reviewing many of the recent books written on the crisis the industry has faced in recent years. One statistic: Newsroom employment has decreased 60 percent industrywide from 1990 to 2016, the entire time I’ve worked in the profession.

A quote to start the article:

“The question arises at this point, why are there so many black sheep in journalism? Why so many “fakes”? Why is the epidemic of “yellow journalism” so prevalent? This phrase is applied to newspapers which delight in sensations, crime, scandal, smut, funny pictures, caricatures and malicious or frivolous gossip about persons and things of no public concern.”

While the quote could aptly describe current conditions, it is from Horace White, “one of American journalism’s most esteemed elder statesmen,” writing in 1904.

Here is a list of the books discussed in the article:

The Powers That Be

by David Halberstam
University of Illinois Press, 771 pp., $25.95 (paper)
I recommend the article for anyone who is remotely interested in our democracy and the news. Lemann writes in his conclussion: “What has happened in journalism in the twenty-first century is a version, perhaps an extreme one, of what has happened in many fields. A blind faith that market forces and new technologies would always produce a better society has resulted in more inequality, the heedless dismantling of existing arrangements that had real value, and a heightened gap in influence, prosperity, and happiness between the dominant cities and the provinces. The political implications of this are painfully obvious, in the United States and elsewhere: in journalism, the poorer, the more nativist, the angrier parts of the country (which vote accordingly) are the ones where journalism can’t deliver on its public promise because of its severe economic constraints. Journalism is a case in which it’s going to take a whole new set of arrangements, and a new way of thinking, to solve the present crisis.”
(Image: Courtesy of the Library of Congress; papers coming off the press, 1936)