With Bloomberg News reporters having privileged access to Bloomberg financial terminals, university administrations seeking to silence student journalists, the Department of Justice seizing phone records from the Associated Press, and the National Security Administration spying on basically everyone, tensions are high at news organizations across the country.
We devote space each issue to developing new business models, monetizing digital content, growing audience reach and engagement, and diversifying products. Despite our collective agreement that these are all important issues facing publishers, they are issues that always take a back seat to a good ethics debate or First Amendment controversy. This is the meat of our industry.
Phone tapping, anonymous sources, censorship, WikiLeaks, electronic monitoring, conflicts of interest, and government secrecy — there’s not always a clear-cut line between what’s right and wrong, when to fight for First Amendment protection and when public safety takes precedence. These discussions are encouraging for the state of newspapers and other legacy news sources. This is what sets us apart from bloggers and any random citizen with a twitter account. Yes, we are the trained professionals, but more important than our training is the fact that we give a damn, that we’re even having these conversations in the first place.
Perhaps my social circle just skews toward the cynical, but I hear a lot about the sad state of affairs into which modern society is descending: attention spans are shortening; literacy is declining; our reliance on technological devices makes us incapable of relating to other people in face-to-face environments; the movie “Idiocracy” coming true, etc. But with each issue of E&P, I’m reminded that there are in fact people who are passionate, talented, educated, vocal, and hell-bent on making an impact, not just for our industry but for the sake of all the people we serve both directly and indirectly.
It can be easy to get sucked into a pattern of negativity when talking about the business of newspapers. Our predisposal to naval gazing ensures a near constant flood of headlines about layoffs, declining advertising, and financial insecurity, but we can’t overlook the advocates who keep on pushing and promoting the business anyway. People like AP chief executive officer Gary Pruitt, who turned the DOJ’s secret seizure of AP phone records into an opportunity to open a public discussion on how to ensure press freedom, a handy guide he delivered in five points in a speech at the National Press Club (a recommended read, if you haven’t done so already).
The world needs news now more than ever. At the same time, the news business needs some good PR more than ever. I know that times are still tough out there for a lot of you, so let’s not lose sight of the big picture. Remember that even though anyone can match our technical capabilities, no one can match our drive and desire to stand up for what’s right.