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The Future of Journalism Looks Bleak

I bumped into Jim Lehrer last night, the legendary anchor of “The News Hour With Jim Lehrer” on PBS, as he breezed through the San Francisco Bay Area promoting his 22nd novel, “Oh, Johnny”. The ex-Marine, whose first big story was covering the Kennedy assassination in Dallas, had some cogent observations on the current demise of the US newspaper industry.  Print media have traditionally been the originators of the news, the guys who went to the city council meeting and took copious, accurate, notes. For this, the paper got full page ads from the local car dealers and every other retail business. Now the car dealers are going under. The proliferation of new media, from radio to TV, the Internet, and smart phones means that the monetization of this content has moved downstream to be reaped by others. Talk radio, weekend news programs, comedy shows, even congressional debates, and yes, blogs (guilty), are feeding off of this news cornucopia for free. The originating newspaper maybe gets a penny of each dollar of revenue spawned by their stories. Newspapers now have no choice but to cut costs by firing journalists and moving online. Thomas Jefferson said that “an informed electorate is essential for a democracy”. The big question is, when all the journalists are gone, where will the news come from? I have suspected all along that Truth, Accuracy, and Neutrality will be the big casualties of all of this. They will go the way of the full service gas station, free check in luggage on airlines, and home delivery of newspapers by teenage boys on bicycles.