More than 15 years ago, I began telling people that the Internet might kill newspapers but that it won’t end journalism. A robust, free press remains part of the fabric of our nation, even as we continue to struggle with how to pay for it. Remember, journalism was created to educate, inform, and persuade people, and our nation’s first journalists were not writing to please advertisers. Thomas Paine did not write Common Sense as a vehicle to promote furniture discounts, closeout sales, or classifieds. Advertising was a byproduct of journalism, which has, at times, over-shadowed it—but I promise you, journalism will endure.
New York Times reporter David Carr, who covers the media business (and does it very well, by the way) wrote an interesting piece last week that got me thinking. He noted that the Washington Post under new ownership of Jeff Bezos has flourished recently because it bolstered its newsroom after years of staff cuts. The Post is turning out more scoops and generating traction. It’s not clear how that’s affecting the balance sheet, but the newsroom is healthier than it has been for some time. In 2012, Carr wrote, presciently, that actual news is likely the next “killer app.” It’s not just the Post; other outlets are looking at real news instead of the puffery that has dominated our social streams of late. (Aside from writing his column, Carr is also featured in an interesting documentary called Page One, which chronicles the Times’s transition from print to digital media.)