Journalism must evolve or become the next Michigan

by Shawn Smith on February 16, 2008

For those unfamiliar with Michigan’s plight, until recently, the state’s economic situation was referred to as a ‘one-state recession.’ A former economic powerhouse, the state was built on the backs of auto workers, many of who did not study past high school. Things were great for many Detroit auto workers. But automakers weren’t creating cars that buyers wanted, and U.S. sales began to drop.

Now let’s consider journalism.

In the 1900s, journalism schools proliferated and many young minds sought to do civil service through reporting, notes Howard Owens. But Owens also offers this nugget on newspaper readership:

Household penetration began to drop in the 1930s. Serious readership declines accelerated in the 1970s.


My guess is in line with Owens’ post, journalism didn’t deliver what people wanted. Readers spoke with their wallets and readership rates. The same happened with U.S. automakers, which failed to produce vehicles coveted by the American public.

Naturally, when the auto industry began to spiral, laid-off assembly line workers began looking for jobs that fit their skill sets. But many high-paying Michigan employers aren’t looking for manual laborers without college degrees.

What are journalism employers looking for?

Likely someone who can do more than only report. Journalists are asked to do more now than ever before, with dwindling resources. And jobs are being cut, just like in the auto industry.

Michigan leaders want innovative, bright minds to rebuild the state into the technology and life sciences hub of the Midwest. Yet those young minds graduating from the state’s top universities are hightailing out of the region to escape Michigan’s economic downfall.

Guess what, a lot of innovative minds are leaving journalism too.

Howard Owens puts it down in his recent blog post. Journalism needs to change if it is to avoid the devastation Michigan has suffered.

How you can help journalism evolve

Owens followed up the post I just mentioned with 10 things journalists can do to reinvent journalism.

Included in the list:

  • Stop writing for the front page.
  • Stop treating journalism like a competition.
  • Forget the false-promise of objectivity.

Check out the rest of Owens’ ideas. Old and new hats alike can learn something.

What do you think? Is journalism long overdue for reinventing itself?

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Notional Slurry » links for 2008-02-19
February 19, 2008 at 2:16 am

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