The importance of true journalism is arguably on par with society’s need for government, medicine and commerce. It monitors all areas of life to ensure justice, seek out truth and serves as the gatekeeper and agenda setter for public discourse on the most important events and stories impacting the world. For me, the definition of journalism begins and ends with print media and more specifically the newspaper. The oncoming demise of the print newspaper has been predicted, discussed and analyzed, but in 2009 it will arrive. Could journalism die with its most accountable and investigative medium?
The Atlantic is one of the U.S.s oldest publications and one of the best examples of the journalism elite . Earlier this month it sent shock waves through the industry, outlining the death of the New York Times by May. This news comes alongside reports of the Los Angeles Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Chicago Tribune and Star Tribune all facing the possibility of going exclusively online or closing down completely. I lamented this trend in August and suggested the answer and revival of local dailies could be in redirecting its focus on truly being the local voice of the city in which it resides. The Atlantic proposed a similar approach, while the New York magazine wrote of hope through new media types with skill in journalism, developing and design.
Could it be enough though? Earlier this month, tech blog Gizmodo broke that Apple’s Steve Jobs would not be delivering the Macworld keynote address due to health reasons, while traditional media refuted the story, regurgitating Apple PRs explanation that is was more due to “politics than his pancreas.” Traditional media was wrong and with this misstep it fell another notch in its argument of better sources than new media journalist. I do not use the word journalist lightly. 2009 will be a historic year with the ushering in of the first African American U.S. President, the worst economic climate in more than 50 years, the demise of local print media and the resurrection of true journalism through passionate, aggressive new media bloggers.
One last thought on this topic is how citizen journalism and specifically Twitter will mix into this new journalistic environment. I agree with MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka that citizen journalism is important, but will not be the foundation for future news reporting, instead a supplement. A great example of its power is demonstrated in the reporting of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 crash this week. Here is the first photo of the story, posted through Twitter: