Journalism Blues - How to Save Traditional Media

9,384 journalism-related jobs have been lost since September 15, 2008, according to UNITY: Journalists of Color. While that doesn't seem like a lot compared to the 107,000 laid off in the tech sector since August (according to TechCrunch), or the 35,000 that Bank of America plans to cut over the next three years, let's keep in mind that there aren't that many journalists to begin with. Engineers, doctors, plumbers, business owners, teachers - they're a dime a dozen, no offense, but you meet those occupations all the time. The top 25 biggest cities in the U.S. might have 100 journalists total in their market. That number gets decidedly smaller all the way down to just a handful in the smallest market of #259.

Let's make no mistake that journalists have earned a bad rap as soul-less story-mongers, who would sell-out their mother (or at least Newt Gingrich's) for a juicy story. Who can love someone who sticks a microphone in the face of someone in the midst of their greatest tragedy? With that in mind, let's also acknowledge that journalists act as the greatest checks and balances of our society. Without journalism, there would be almost no accountability amongst politicians and their constituents. Many Government officials feel like they can operate with impunity. Without the glaring eye of the media, American citizens and voters would not be able to hold the Rumsfelds, the Ted Stevens, and the Blagojevich's of the world accountable.

All of this does not mean that journalists should walk around with that smug sense of entitlement that many of them do. Some of those at the top have given a bad reputation to the journalists in the middle who face a daily, internal battle of duty and sensitivity. I have many friends in the business who have been yelled at, pushed, or ignored for trying to get the story. Let us also remember that telling the story of the fallen, painting a picture of a victim, brings with it awareness of the crime, community support, renewed efforts from law enforcement, and even legislative action.

While Wall Street and Detroit are getting bailouts, my friends in the journalism business need help as well. Advertising dollars will NEVER go into traditional media - television, radio, newspaper, and print - the way they once did. There are too many options on the web to get your news instantaneously, rather than waiting for the 11 o'clock news or the morning paper. The strategy that needs to be embraced by old media hands will be almost impossible to implement with current management. You can't have old-school learning on the fly to implement habits they don't understand.

What the media companies should do in EVERY market, is embrace a multi-tiered media strategy. Rather than trying to drive traffic to their main website or station call letters, they must buy dozens of domain names in their particular region, build out the sites, and brand them. For instance, let's say you're currently trying to drive traffic to www.kidk.com (my former station in Idaho). At the end of each report or segment, the reporter goes, "to find our more, visit our website at K-I-D-K-Dot-Com." This is done with crime, weather, entertainment, sports, and everything inbetween. It's too much. You're asking your viewers, who already have a limited attention span, to do too much. Have you ever been on a news station's website? It's a convoluted mess. The entry way to people's desires these days are through the search engines named Google and Yahoo and MSN.

My former station should begin buying domain names like PocatelloWeather.com, IdahoFallsEntertainment.com, HighSchoolSportsPocatello.com, or IdahoFallsElections.com NOW before the other stations buy them. They should know that that is how people will find these sites, by entering the exact search terms of those domain names. No one is going to KIDK.com for anything unless you half report the story, and tell viewers that the other half is on the website. Good luck keeping those viewers though when they can run off and watch the other two network affiliates in town.

The advertising dollars will never be the same margin as what used to work, but something must be done now to give advertisers more options from a multi-tiered media strategy. The sites you brand will ultimately be connected to your main entity and make your core business a stronger, and more attractive one.

As for the journalists who are losing their jobs, you must realize that this medium has seen it's best days gone by. There will NEVER be an increase in journalism jobs or pay. Luckily, most people I knew were in it for the right reasons - they loved the trade, wanted to help people out, or just loved seeing their face on TV (not that that was me or anything). The good news is that we can always continue our trade of citizen journalism through blogs. You won't make much, but you're insatiable love for writing and telling a story will be somewhat fulfilled.

I wish my fellow-journalists, (if I'm allowed to still call myself that), the best in wherever this crossroads will lead. But remember, there are still many undefined regions and opportunites of an evolving medium still to come. Traditional media isn't dead, it just hasn't evolved in a long time. The time is now for change. For once, don't wait for the news to happen - make it happen.

Save our journalists - this country needs them.

Sincerely,
Kevin L.
Silicon Valley Bachelor

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2 comments :

  1. If being a journalist and helping other journalists to stay in this industry is your dream, then don't just talk. LET'S WALK!

    Sometimes you will surprise yourself with what you can do if you are willing to start the first step.

    (From someone who can't read)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Email me at SVBachelor@gmail.com and we can walk together.

    ReplyDelete

 
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