My friend Craig Silverman has written a post with some great advice for freelance journalists trying to develop their career in difficult economic times: Freelancing the future. He came to this in response to a post by Adrian Monck, who has been making the case recently that journalism is not at fault for the decline in newspapers.
Monck is almost certainly right, and Craig’s advice is really good advice – not just for freelance journalists but for any independent consultant-type person trying to get things going. But it’s the business side of the news media business that has and continues to screw everything up, IMO. When the net came along, they said, “look, blogs are great, everyone wants more opinion and context” and went ahead and gutted their news reporting function in favour of more opinion, more columnists, more of what the blogosphere was doing very well from it’s inception.
The problem is – that was the exact opposite of the bet they should have made. Opinions are like noses – everyone has one – and no one gives a damn if it’s some “journalist” (whose publisher likely sold him/her out long ago) who has written the opinion piece. On any conceivable subject, I can go out into the blogs and find at least one if not a dozen writers with more experience, more context, and more knowledge about a subject than any journalist has.
What we need – and by “we” I mean society at large – is honest, exhaustive, factual reporting. Newspapers should have (and should be) increasing their reporting budgets and decreasing their spend on columnists and opinions. I do want more opinion and context – but the last place I want to go to get it is a newspaper.