Downie – journalism’s future hangs in the balance

“The challenge I see is to turn this tumultuous moment of transformation into a beneficial reconstruction of journalism” Len Downie, the former executive editor of the Washington Post told an audience at City University, London, earlier this week.  “Given the current economic turmoil…that outcome is far from a given”.

That was his conclusion of a broad survey of the American news media, most of whose news reporting “can no longer be supported by a single economic model, such as advertising or subscriptions”.

He painted a scene of contrasts – dramatically reduced newsroom staff at both newspapers and television stations, but an increasing number of reporters covering Washington, with many drawn from niche-interest news organisations. 

“Accountability journalism” is being developed by a panoply of foundation-funded operations, and local news reporting is being taken up by corporate and self-seeded hyper local sites.  However, “News aggregators like the Huffington Post…are primarily parasites living off journalism produced by others.”

He avoided outright pessimism, but appeared to think that the health of responsible journalism hangs in the balance.

The full text of his speech is published by The Press Gazette.

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