Why journalists deserve low pay
The demise of the news business can be halted, but only if journalists commit to creating real value for consumers and become more involved in setting the course of their companies.
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Some news magazines have confronted the issue and are already changing and trying to provide unique news content. Newsweek has moved away from creating a compendium of events to a publication that explores the issues and implications of events and trends. US News & World Report has emphasized its consumer review and rankings activities.Skip to next paragraph
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Daily newspapers don't have quite as much leeway with content but they can emphasize uniqueness. The Boston Globe, for example, could become the national leader in education and health reporting because of the multitude of higher education and medical institutions in its coverage area. Not only would it make the paper more valuable to readers, but it could sell that coverage to other publications. Similarly, The Dallas Morning News could provide specialized coverage of oil and energy, The Des Moines Register could become the leader in agricultural news; and the Chicago Tribune in airline and aircraft coverage. Every paper will have to be the undisputed leader in terms of their quality and quantity of local news.
Finding the right formula of practice, functions, skills, and business model will not be easy, but the search must be undertaken.
It is not just a matter of embracing uses of new technologies. Journalists today are often urged to change practice to embrace crowd sourcing, to search specialty websites, social networks, blogs, and micro-blogs for story ideas, and to embrace in collaborative journalism with their audiences. Although all of these provide useful new ways to find information, access knowledge, and engage with readers, listeners, and viewers, the amount of value that they add and its monetization is highly debatable. The primary reason is that those who are most highly interested in that information and knowledge are able to harvest it themselves using increasingly common tools.
Finding the rights means to create and protect value will require collaboration throughout news enterprises. It is not something that journalists can leave to management. Journalists and managers alike will need to develop collaboration skills and create social relations that make it possible. Journalists will also need to acquire entrepreneurial and innovation skills that makes it possible for them to lead change rather than merely respond to it.
The demise of the news business can be halted, but only if journalists commit to creating value for consumers and become more involved in setting the course of their companies.
Robert G. Picard is a professor of media economics at Sweden's Jonkoping University, a visiting fellow at the Reuters Institute at Oxford University, and the author and editor of 23 books, including "The Economics and Financing of Media Companies." This essay is adapted from a lecture Professor Picard gave at Oxford. He blogs at http://themediabusiness.blogspot.com/