We’re witnessing either the end of journalism or the birth of a golden age – depending on your point of view, or more likely depending on whether or not you are a journalist. This is the key theme of this fascinating study by David Ryfe, who takes what appears to be his disadvantageous position of being a journalism academic who has never been a journalist and turns it to good advantage.
After several years teaching journalism courses, Ryfe decided it was time he “got his hands dirty”, or at least watched others getting their hands dirty, by undertaking an ethnographic study of the newsrooms of three local daily newspapers. There he didn’t just watch and note but also reported on press conferences, wrote up news releases and got bawled at by angry news editors.
What emerges from his work are three differing accounts of how US newspapers, all in economic decline, have sought to come to terms with the impact of the internet and social media on both the economics of the papers and the daily news routines of their journalists. It all makes for fascinating but depressing reading: nothing that the newspapers tried seemed able to arrest what appeared to be an inevitable, internet-hastened decline.
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