Web is killing the business of journalism

Jeff Jarvis is angry again, because of course he's right and others are wrong. This time his ire is targeted at those who responded to a very unscientific survey of " prominent members of the national news media" by The Atlantic for a piece about the affect of the Internet on journalism. According to the piece, 65 percent of those surveyed believe journalism has been hurt more than helped by the Internet.

This, of course, has Jarvis hopping mad: "Restrain me," he writes.

Alas, The Atlantic probably errs by not presenting the question more effectively, and Jarvis, myopic as always, errs because he's not savvy enough to see the real question and answer behind the piece. You see, the Internet has damaged journalism. There's no question. What Jarvis is angry about is that this would seem to indicate that web-based reporting is inferior. Most of it is, but that's not the takeaway here. It is that the Internet has damaged the business of journalism. Of that, there is no debate. Other factors have played a part in the demise of newspapers and other newsgathering organizations, everything from greed and managerial incompetence to the rising cost of newsprint. But the web is what has so thoroughly slammed newspapers. If the rest were the first small rocks to slide down the mountainside, then the web is the thunderclap that triggered the landslide.

Many wags have compared newspaper companies to buggy whip makers. Whatever. But using that analogy, the newspaper folks are saying that cars have damaged the business of making and selling buggy whips. Again, there is no debate there. But the Jarvises of the day would say, "How dare you say carmakers can't make a quality buggy whip!" That's not the point, is it? In that case, buggies and cars conveyed people, but they were very different. In this one, newspapers and the web both convey information, but they are very different. And yes, the car killed the buggy just as surely as the web is killing newspapers.

Now, The Atlantic doesn't ask, nor do the queried journalists respond, with answers to this exact question. But that is the overarching Q and A in this discussion. Sure, they say that reporting suffers, that attention spans are being shortened. But what they are really saying is that the way we once did business has been irreparably damaged. For some reason, this rankles Jarvis, who continues to push for the demise of print products despite the fact that some of us still prefer to have that option in the mix. Anything that gets in the way of that seems to make him see red. Too bad that so clouds his view.

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