This morning I watched Part III of Frontline's four-part series News War
. Last night's episode was called "What's Happening to the News"
. It began by noting that television news relies more on "soft" news today than it has in the past. Soft news being a variety of things but exemplified most recently by the hubbub over Anna Nicole Smith. (Which John Gibson of Faux News recently defended
.) The real meat & potatoes of the episode was about how newspapers are dealing with the advent of the Internet. I say newspapers instead of the MSM generally because the program notes that most people still get their news from television but that TV news is largely soft news and opinion as opposed to investigative journalism. Newspaper sales are dropping as young folks hesitate to follow in the footsteps of their parents and instead turn to the Internet and to satirical programs (i.e. - The Daily Show and The Colbert Report) to keep abreast to the day's events.
It's not unfair to say that "What's Happening to the News" wallowed a bit in nostalgia for the days of Edward R. Murrow when men were men and men smoked filterless Camels on the air as they read the news and there were no bloggers or "citizen journalists". At the same time, the program had some very revealing interviews which justified these feelings to an extent. For instance, one of the producers of The Daily Show indicated that he was appalled that anyone would consider the show to be news instead of satire. Executives from Yahoo and Google were both very open on how indebted their news sites are traditional news media, especially print. In fact, without the traditional sources, there would be no Yahoo or Google news sites.
All in all the show was interesting. I suppose the debate over traditional vs. Internet news sources wasn't new to anyone who's followed it to any degree but sometimes we denizens of the Net forget that there still are lots of folks who have no idea what a blog is and do not seek news online. What I found more interesting was how the show traced the recent fate of the Los Angeles Times after it was sold by the family who had owned it for so long. A buyout by the Tribune Company followed by a resurgence and then downsizing. The trend for newspapers these days is to become "hyper-local" meaning to concentrate almost exclusively on local news and leave the national and international reporting to the AP, Reuters, NYT, etc.
The final part of the series airs next Tuesday.