From a midwestern newspaper journalist's anonymous email to Andrew Sullivan:
When you see the metrics every day, and it’s clear that quick-hit crime stories or freak-show stories generate as many clicks as an investigative piece that took weeks to report, what rationale can there possibly be for doing the investigative work, the longer-form stories that actually help explain the workings of a community to the people who live there?
If you care about the quality of journalism, consider a policy of refusing to click on crime and freak-show news, no matter how much the headline arouses your curiosity. One advantage of online journalism is that when I refuse to click on those stories, that disinterest is recorded. Obviously I'm in the minority, but the conscious behavior of consumers is the only thing that moves corporations.
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales recently said that one of his biggest problems as mayor is the lack of credible local journalism, which has made it impossible to have a public conversation about issues that matter to the city and region. Would the great achievements of consensus in the past have been possible without our newspaper of record, the Oregonian, as a universally recognized forum for discsussing the issues of the day?
It's not just that the Oregonian has ceased to publish on paper, it's also that its website looks trashy and conveys the company's low self-esteem. Big O, before your name is utterly forgotten, wake up and realize that your marketing advisors are killing you. Fire whoever suggested that your website be called "Oregon Live" instead of "The Oregonian," and that it should look like the website of a cheap fly-by-night aggregator instead of like that of a newspaper. The credibility that comes from a long and respected history is the only thing legacy newspapers have as a competitive advantage, and the Oregonian is throwing that away.
When you really start thinking about this, it's hard to face how scary it could be. Sure, there are other ways of getting news, usually news pre-digested for those who share your political views. But there's no other way for the whole city to have a conversation. How can we do planning without that?