When Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford brought down the Nixon administration, it was perhaps the pinnacle of American journalism. Two young men given a long enough leash to chase down the story, the truth, and to perfectly display the intentions of our First Amendment. Journalism was viewed as a noble profession full of upstanding Americans looking out for the everyday man. Things have certainly changed.
As everyone likes to say, newspapers are dying. Just last week the Rocky Mountain News, which had been running for well over 100 years, printed their last edition. The Tribune Co., which owns our hometown Orlando Sentinel, has been in trouble for years.
There are two main issues getting in the way for newspapers. First, in a nutshell, is the profit motive. The ownership of newspapers by those who are only concerned with the bottom line and the corporate stock price, well, make decisions accordingly. Providing a valuable public service seems almost secondary.
Second, and this is a problem just as much because of the first reason, is the internet. And when you look at it, when compared to the internet, an actual newspaper has a lot live up to:
Advantages of the internet:
• I can get the scoop on the game and look at the box score instantly. None of this getting up in the morning and walking out to the curb stuff.
• It’s free.
• I am not limited to just what is in today’s edition. My sources are endless. I can read about the Magic at ESPN.com, OrlandoMagic.com, this pretty cool blog called The Puns Are Starting to Bore Me, and plenty of other places.
• Video, audio… All sorts of stuff.
• People can do it while they are at work, and it will still look like they are working.
Advantages of the newspaper:
• The feeling of relaxing with a cup of coffee and unfolding the paper.
• When skimming through a newspaper you can catch stories that you wouldn’t otherwise see.
Not looking too good for the ole’ newspapers, and that was just the Cliff Notes version. For some great journalism on the current state of journalism, check out this Frontline.
So why all this rambling about stuff not having to do with the Orlando Magic? Well, the other day we discussed the media and it deserves to be expanded on. This all started when, as visitors to the Orlando Magic Message Board, we noticed several posts by Orlando Sentinel writer Mike Bianchi. He was posting links to his blog and columns he had written over at OrlandoSentinel.com. Why would Mike be promoting his writing like this?
Now I’ve never sat in on a meeting at the Orlando Sentinel, but I can imagine how one not too long ago went:
Guy in business suit who went to business school: “Alright, folks. Ya see, with this internet thing we are getting killed because people don’t need to pay us anymore to list in the classifieds that they are trying to sell their beanbag chair.”
Mike Bianchi: “I want a beanbag chair.”
Guy in business suit who went to business school: “Now they can put it on Craigslist for free. This sucks. They can also post their resume on Monster.com. Not good too. So we have this website, orlandosentinel.com, and we’re trying to survive this way. What we have decided to do is bow down and try to generate ad revenue by putting up pictures of girls in bikinis, cute babies, and other top notch journalism stuff like that. Ya know… Pulitzer stuff."
Mike Bianchi: “Alright, so what does this have to do with me. I’m a pretty solid writer. I do a good job making noise and stirring the pot. Is it because you want me to take some of these bikini photos?”
Guy in business suit who went to business school: “No, basically what we want you to do is put on one of those sandwich signs and go to the street corner and do whatever you can to get our website a few extra hits. That way we can try to charge an extra dollar for that ad on our site that no one clicks on anyway.”
Mike Bianchi: “Alright, boss, I’ll do it. But I have to say that this isn’t why I wanted to be a writer.”
Guy in business suit who went to business school: “Quite you. I don’t have time for the only staff member here that isn’t trying to extract the most profit from the Casey Anthony situation.”
I could be wrong, but I think that is how it went down. After the meeting Mike signed up at orlandomagiczone.com and posted a few links to his stuff. So the question is, what’s wrong with it? Why not yell as loud as you can for attention?
The problem starts at the illusion of separation between the internet and actual journalism (actual journalism refers to Woodward and Bernstein type stuff). For some reason people still think that there should be writers doing it the old fashioned way, even though the old fashioned way died years ago. The internet, especially message boards, is for playing, while cubicles at the Sentinel's downtown office is where the real work gets done.
Unfortunately, there are many more sources vying for our attention these days, and if you don’t take a proactive approach you will become the Rocky Mountain News. Take for example, this blog. We promote it whenever we can. We email our posts to other sources and hell, I’m going to email this to Mr. Bianchi. And we would like for as many people to read it as possible. One might be able to say that even we are a bit of competition for the sports desk over at the Orlando Sentinel… And 10 years ago no one would be able to read us!
So journalists keep trying. The latest craze is Twitter. Yes, journalists are resorting to 160 character updates on sports, business, and politics. Is there anything wrong with it? No. The only problem is when the need to Twitter, blog, Facebook, and post on message boards replaces doing actual journalism. These tools need only supplement the long nights and countless cups of coffee that is true American journalism. After all, the typical Magic fan can’t go to practice and hear what Stan Van Gundy has to say about this Shaq feud. They can’t ask Otis about Hedo opting out after the season is over. So, given the world is at their fingertips now with this internet craze, if fans don’t get the answers right away they blame the journalists who they see spending too much time Twittering… Thank God I’m not a journalist.