Sunday, May 3, 2009

Newspapers’ Essential Strengths

David Carr writes:

On Friday, it was announced that The Washington Post lost $53.8 million in the first quarter of the year, and perhaps more ominously, that revenue in its online properties dropped 8 percent.

Thinking about a federal government in full frolic engorged by stimulus money without a robust Washington Post is not a pleasant prospect.

But not to worry, suggest new media prophets. As these lumbering oak trees fall, a thousand flowers will bloom, using the power of the Internet, network effects and citizen journalism to create a new apparatus of accountability.

There’s some logic to that. Journalism is not nuclear physics, does not require a license or special equipment. But I’ve been in business journalism for some years and have constantly bumped hard up against the limits of my land-grant, liberal arts education.

Much of the transparency in our current financial system derives not from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act but the willingness of experienced business reporters to walk past the rhetoric and dig deep into the records.

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