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Challenge Match: adjensen vs Spike Spiegle - Journalism is a Dying Profession

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posted on Dec, 11 2012 @ 11:57 PM
Thank you to Spike Spiegle for accepting this topical and important debate subject, and the ATS Debate Forum for hosting.


Professional Journalism, the field of expertise that has brought down tyrants, conspiracists and king-makers of the past, has been supplanted, as it should be, by citizen journalism, online bloggers and social media. For purposes of this debate, I will break my arguments down into the various professional journalistic outlets, beginning with the original -- print.


When I was a graduate student, I took a minor in history and one semester, my required course in that department was a research project that consisted of reading every newspaper published in a certain geographic region during the 1880s. For months, I dutifully went to the campus library every afternoon and read microfilms of these seemingly ancient documents.

If you have the opportunity to do the same (on a more limited basis, it did get tiring after a bit, lol,) I recommend it -- it is a very enlightening experience to view the world as those ancestors did. Without the benefit of any sort of instant communication, these newspapers dealt with national and international issues with a sort of detached prose, supplemented by the local mundanities of who committed suicide that week over a lost love (surprisingly common) and whether Mabel Johnson served maple bars or sugar cookies to her callers that week.

The weekly (or, if one lived in a large city, daily,) newspaper was the only means that one had to know anything about current affairs, so it was taken rather seriously. This continued, unabated, until the 1980s, when a number of technical innovations began to signal the end of the printed medium.


When I was a kid, growing up in a suburb of the Twin Cities, there was a veritable pile of newspapers at my disposal. The Minneapolis Star, an afternoon paper, the Minneapolis Tribune, a morning paper. St. Paul, a few miles away, offered the morning Dispatch and evening Pioneer Press, and there was also the weekly Bloomington Sun.

Over the years, those dwindled to the Minneapolis Star Tribune and whatever they call their consolidated paper over in St. Paul. I subscribe to the Star-Trib weekend edition because the weekly coupons generally cover the cost of the paper, though I have to admit that I rarely read my copy, because most of the "news" is already old by the time I receive it -- instant access on the Internet or cable news channels generally trumps ink and paper, particularly when their own website publishes current articles hours before the mass of paper arrives at my house.

The consolidation that has occurred in the Twin Cities market is not unique, and, in many instances, the result of the decline of interest in newspapers has resulted in bankruptcy. These papers are a few of those that have ceased circulation since March 2007:

  • Tucson Citizen
  • Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO)
  • Baltimore Examiner
  • Kentucky Post
  • Cincinnati Post
  • King County Journal (Seattle, WA)
  • Union City Register-Times
  • Halifax Daily News
  • Albuquerque Tribune
  • South Idaho Press
  • San Juan Star
  • Honolulu Advertiser
  • Oakland Tribune
  • Contra-Costa Times (eastern part of San Francisco Bay, CA)

A complete list of defunct newspapers may be found here. Caution, it is not a short list.

We can also add the news magazines U.S. News and World Report, Life and Newsweek to the list of abandoned journalistic properties.

So, we can see that the American newspaper is a dying medium, but what is the root of the problem? Money, of course -- there aren't enough coupon clipping rationalists like myself buying the dead trees proffered up by these media moguls, and their main sources of income, (you never believed it was subscriptions, did you?) advertising, has been undercut by online aggregators, like google and alternative mediums, like Craig's List.

Classified advertising, once the true gravy of newspapers, has been decimated by Craig's List.

Without the revenue to pay for journalistic talent, and fewer readers to justify the expense anyway, newspapers have been cutting staff ruthlessly over the past decade. Conversely, they have attempted to leverage the few resources that they have kept on the payroll, creating paid "news portals" to raise revenue, but even the online offerings of highly regarded media are failing to monetize and are giving up the ghost.

When I was studying journalism in high school and university, one of the key concepts of ethics that they drilled into our heads was the Chinese Wall between advertising and editorial. Under no circumstances should any reader ever even entertain the idea that advertisers received better coverage as a result of their advertising -- if a manufacturer had a shoddy product, but advertised in the paper, you still needed to expose the shoddy product, because, as a journalist, you worked for the public's good, not the advertiser's. This was so important that it was focused on, over and over -- "The sales guys are going to lean on you to give their clients a good image, but if it's not deserved, you do NOT comply."

Now, I'd like you to read this bold article, published on in October: Inside Forbes: The Birth of Brand Journalism and Why It's Good for the News Business. A quick summary: the promotion of journalism that blurs the lines between content and advertising, intentionally. All that ethics education that we received in the 1970s and 80s? Out the window, because it's the money that matters.


We can see that it is a simple fact of economics that print journalism is on the decline, and that its closest replacement, online traditional media like or, is not above kicking traditional journalistic ethics to the curb, and going after the almighty buck, even if it means deceiving the consumer/reader.

Over to Spike for the rebuttal!

posted on Dec, 12 2012 @ 11:55 PM
Hello all,

I would like to thank adjensen for preposing this topic, debate and of course the forum for hosting.

Journalism is a Dying Profession?

My opponent opens with a well worded post making a strong case built off of his personal experience dealing with journalism in it's paper medium, but I think by sticking solely to the newspaper throughout his presentation
he gives the reader but a fraction of what journalism truly is...

jour·nal·ism The activity or profession of writing for newspapers or magazines or of broadcasting news on radio or television. The product of such activity.

In other words it's the search for truth and the reporting of said truth through any available means.
( sort of like ATS )

Journalism is the investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to inform the intended audience about topics ranging from government and business organizations to cultural aspects of society such as arts and entertainment. The field includes editing, photojournalism, and documentary. In modern society, news media have become the chief purveyor of information and opinion about public affairs; but the role and status of journalism, along with other forms of mass media, are undergoing changes resulting from the Internet.This has resulted in a shift toward reading on e-readers, smartphones, and other electronic devices rather than print media and has faced news organizations with the ongoing problem of monetizing on digital news. It remains to be seen which news organizations can make the best of the advent of digital media and whether or not print media can survive.


Journalism is not paper or newspapers no, journalism can take it's form in many ways and as the paper medium declined so did television take it's place with the first great presedential debates: John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon 1960:

1960 The first general election presidential debate was held on September 26, 1960, between U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy, the Democratic nominee, and Vice President Richard Nixon, the Republican nominee, in Chicago at the studios of CBS' WBBM-TV. Historian J.N. Druckman observed “television primes its audience to rely more on their perceptions of candidate image (e.g., integrity).


And with this debate dawned a new age for journalism one where character mattered more then ever before...

Later in my presentation, I should like to move quickly through 1960-2000 and finally end with a concrete view on the how and why journalism is not in decline.
Because like I stated earlier, journalism ( the search and sharing of truths ) can never truly be in decline, in fact with ever growing population numbers one could even argue that it might be on the rise.

And with that over to adjensen....

posted on Dec, 13 2012 @ 08:22 PM
As Spike points out, my first post focused entirely on the demise of the print journalism profession (side note - bear in mind that the subject of the debate is journalism as a profession,) and, as we saw, the future is not bright for print journalism. In this debate, we'll look at the other major component of the industry -- broadcast journalism.


As I noted in the opening statement, newspapers were somewhat hampered by matters of time. In the 1800s, the biggest delay was in actually finding out that something happened, but even after the arrival of the telegraph and telephone, there was still a delay in the process of writing, printing and distributing the news. The reason that most major cities had a morning and afternoon paper, rather than two morning papers, was that the news in the afternoon paper was often different, with a later deadline.

That changed, significantly, in the 1920s with the rise of "instant journalism", in the form of Marconi's invention, the radio.

The first radio news station began broadcasting in 1920, and within a few years, most of the country had some degree of radio coverage (as one might guess, I'm a big fan of old documents, and here's a great one: page 12 of the February 1924 Department of Commerce Radio Service Bulletin has a list of all commercial radio stations in the US, and makes for interesting reading.)

With an interest in consolidating operations and limiting expenses, stations began to band together in what, by 1927, became the two dominating networks -- the National Broadcasting Corporation's "Blue Network" (little known fact - this network actually became ABC, a second NBC network survives today as NBC!) and the United Independent Broadcasters, which became the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). For the next twenty five years or so, radio was the premiere source for news, whether local, national or international. Unlike newspapers, listeners could get their news as it happened, often with broadcasts directly from the source. As an example, please listen to this audio clip, reporting on the 7 Dec, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (actual broadcast starts at about 1:00).

By the late 1940s, and very dramatically into the 1950s, the audio-only radio format proved to be less satisfactory than the up and coming television medium. Journalism began to transition (only a few broadcasters, like Edward R. Murrow and Eric Sevareid, were able to make the jump, demonstrating the truth of the statement "He has a real face for the radio", lol,) and today, there is still news on the radio, but it is fairly limited, usually from a single source (which is often a tv station) and music and sport remain the primary content of radio today. I will point out the excellent National Public Radio news programs, but this is the exception, rather than the rule -- and with a staff of less than 100, radio journalism is hardly a booming career field.


Then, to the current "state of the art", television. For about 25 years (interestingly, about the same length of time radio dominated,) broadcast "Big Three Network" evening news was the primary source of information for Americans. Led by stalwarts like Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley and Murrow, this was the gold standard for quality reporting, timely, unbiased and words that we could trust.

Through the assassinations and political turmoil of the 1960s, to the moon landing, to Vietnam, Watergate and Jonestown, professional journalists reported on events, both big and small, popular or unpopular, with a detached sensibility that informed and educated, countering the spin and marketing that was already beginning to propagate from business and the government.

But, sadly, all good things must pass…

The introduction of Ted Turner's Cable News Network in 1980 heralded the eventual demise of the evening news broadcast monopoly, but also would eventually cause the greatest crisis in journalism -- the mutation of news into entertainment, and the willful setting aside of ethics in favour of biased reporting and intentional manipulation on the part of the media. Since the introduction of CNN, network news ratings have been in a steady decline -- there may be some upticks here and there, but for the most part, we can see the huge losses taken by network news.


In my closing post, we'll take a look at the current sad state of professional journalism, and see what the future journalist might look like -- it may surprise you!

Over to you, Spike!

posted on Dec, 14 2012 @ 03:30 AM
Hello and welcome back everyone.

I would like to thank adjensen for his very well put together second post, with it, in my mind he's strewn a stronger argument for the rise of journalism and also given us a factual general history from 1920 ( Radio ) to the mid 1980s and finally with his graph simply showing a decrease in viewers of but one medium ( television ).

The last broadcast of Walter Cronkite is sad, but just that, sad. It's no more of an indicator to the demise of journalism, then say...a Great general taking his final leave from the field. Sure, moral might be effected temporarily but the army will adapt, and that's what journalism the profession has been doing since long before 1920 as my opponent pointed out.

Journalism is not in demise, it is adapting....
I found it interesting that my opponent chose Cronkite's last broadcast, from that I shall take a quote:

But those who have made anything of this departure I'm afraid have made to much, this is but a transition, a passing of the baton...

Wise words indeed, and they shouldn't be forgotten.

I would like to highlight the word * transition * from Mr. Cronkite's quote, as I believe it is key to this whole argument.

Journalism the profession has always been in flux, from the first televised reporting of a Presidential assassination...
Walter Cronkite 1963:


To the coverage of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, by Dan Rather, the man who had taken
up the baton so to speak after the Great Cronkite.
Tiananmen 1989:

There were smaller things, I was camped out on Tiananmen Square with the students at the very beginning of our coverage there. And I’d taken, which every foreign correspondent does, my, you know, kit, and I woke up one morning to the following scene



Now we enter the 21st century, and as the Radio gave way to the Television, so to now the Television gives way to social media and citizen Journalism...

What is citizen journalism?

Citizen journalism refers to any type of news gathering and reporting -- writing and publishing articles about a newsworthy topic, or posting photographs or video of a newsworthy event -- that is done by members of the general public rather than the professional news agencies commonly referred to as "mainstream media."

Is citizen journalism, professional journalism?

The rise of citizen journalism has been controversial, because it raises the question: what does it mean to be a "professional" journalist if everyone is a journalist? Critics of citizen journalism argue that real journalists, professional or amateur, adhere to certain standards like fact checking, naming sources, searching out opinions on both sides of an issue and avoiding libelous statements [source: Hogg]. You don't need to have a degree in journalism or carry press credentials to practice these principles

Is there a decline, or another transition?

Interestingly, in the wake of mass budget cuts to U.S. newspapers, largely due to the rise of the Internet as a communications tool, mainstream media outlets have quickly (and somewhat ironically) moved to incorporate elements of citizen journalism into their news programs and publications. Cable news networks solicit viewer photos and videos of breaking news stories. Newspaper reporters write blogs and update Twitter accounts, inviting reader interaction and participation.


To me it seems clear, there is no decline in journalism the profession.

It is simply undergoing another one of it's many transitions...


Over to adjensen!!!

posted on Dec, 14 2012 @ 09:20 PM
In the first round of the debate, we looked at the demise of print journalism, an industry not merely in retraction, but one in its death throes. In the second, we saw that radio journalism had a run of about 25 years, then largely died off, replaced by television evening news, which also lasted about a quarter century before it started to feel the squeeze from cable news, which brought diversity, constancy and steep competition to the industry.


So, what did this more diverse news environment bring during its 25 year run, from 1980 to about 2005? Not surprisingly, a more competitive landscape and "always on" mentality has resulted in sensationalization, manipulation and the selling out of the vaunted journalistic ethics of the past that both Spike and I have referenced. News is still transmitted, but it is no longer the trustworthy source that it once was.

MSNBC anchor Dylan Ratigan apologized this morning for using fake photos of Sarah Palin last Friday in a segment about the former Alaska governor, and for not acknowledging their inauthenticity.

With the larger number of media outlets pursuing constantly dwindling advertising dollars, we've seen two troubling trends. First, the presentation of entertainment as news -- rather than seeing journalism as a serious discipline that can help to change the world, some use their media as nothing more than a long running joke. On the right, exemplified by Rush Limbaugh, and on the left, Jon Stewart. Now, with that sentence, I've likely alienated my entire audience -- in the polarized America, it seems that if you hate one, you'll hate the other -- but consider that both of these entertainers intentionally blur the line between news, opinion and entertainment.

“I’ve been sitting here for the last few minutes trying to come up with a list of people I want to kill with a shovel.”
~ The Glenn Beck radio program, March 9, 2001

The second troubling trend has been the abandonment of the unbiased view. While it has long been held by some that there has always been a "left wing media bias" in the United States, today's media makes no secret of the fact. Prefer liberal views? MSNBC or CNN is the network for you. More conservative? FOX News isn't shy about catering to you.

The result of all this is a continued decline of the journalism profession.


Statistically, there is absolutely no question that journalism is a dying profession -- for the period from 2006 to 2010, it lost the highest percentage of jobs in the country, and the slumping salaries for journalists were just salt in the wounds.

The number of journalism professionals has shrunk by 12% between 2006 and 2010. This decline is faster than the growth for all careers between the years 2006 and 2010, which was 1%.

Nationally, the median yearly salary earned by journalism professionals was $39,267 in 2010. This is 25% less than the national median salary for all professions, which was $68,155 per year. (Source)


But, as the diverse commercial new environment that began in 1980 with CNN begins to wind down, caught up in the cesspool of its own making, what is taking its place?

Here begins an historical observation.

Newspapers were supplanted by radio because radio could be more timely. Radio was supplanted, after 25 years, by tv evening news, because it was more complete, and more timely. The evening news was supplanted, 25 years later, by dedicated news channels, because they were more timely.

What can be more timely than a 24 hour news channel?

A source that cuts out the middleman, the professional journalist.

Let me direct you to this thread:

I ran across that the other night, because I subscribe to the Breaking Alternative News forum, and after reading it, kept an eye on google news. It was a good 20 minutes before anything appeared on that mainstream source that regarded this event. By virtue of his "in", his wife, benrl scooped the whole world on that event.

That's the future of journalism, crowdsourcing. No matter where, when or who, there will always be a random person with a camera phone and an ATS, Facebook or Twitter account, ready to tell everyone what's going on around them.

Is this journalism? Darn right it is.

Is this journalism as a profession, a job, a career? The subject of the debate?

Not a chance. We've taken information back from the "pros" that have used it to control, manipulate and commercialize us.

Journalism is a dying profession… long live journalism!


And that's it from the news desk, over to Spike for his "Closing Thoughts" segment! Thanks to him, and the ATS Debate Forum for this very timely debate.

posted on Dec, 17 2012 @ 03:08 PM
Hello and welcome back once again.
My thanks to adjensen, and the forum for hosting this important debate.

As promised in this third installment, I hope to cover citizen / journalism the profession and it's continued rise as the next transition in we enter the twenty first century.

First, a short video ( 27 seconds ) that gives one a quick and precise definition of citizen journalism, be it with a hint of sarcasm.


Is citizen journalism on the rise?

HONG KONG—Citizen journalism in China is thriving in spite of tight government controls on official media and a speedy censorship system that blocks content the ruling Communist Party doesn't like, experts said.


CIMA is pleased to release a new report, By the People: The Rise of Citizen Journalism, by Eugene Meyer, a veteran journalist. Citizen journalism is seen by some as an antidote to the widening gap in societies where traditional news media—print and broadcast—are in decline.



So, lets take my own country as an example, how are journalists doing in Canada?

The national average employment income of a journalist in Canada was $54,335, according to Statistics Canada’s 2006 census. This number is above the national average of $36,301 — so journalists aren’t doing that badly.


Another interesting statistic, is the number of journalists being imprisoned.

In times like these...The line between citizen and journalist can sometimes be blurred...But it's still there.

Regarding an earlier comment I made about population increase and a said increase of journalists along with the rise in numbers...

A former journalist himself, Earl is a strong advocate of editorial differentiation; therefore, he is not against large newsrooms. But the fact remains: on the US market, the size of the newsroom isn’t a shield against readership erosion. With the possible exception of India, the era of big editorial cathedrals is gone. In France for instance, according to a 2009 study conducted by the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), the number of journalists almost tripled in two generations

So, people are still training and wanting to become journalists, the profession is on the rise and undergoing constant transition.

In light of recent events we have seen both the harm and the good that journalism can do.

Long Live Journalism!


PS: a BIG thank you to adjensen, and the debate forum.

posted on Dec, 27 2012 @ 02:05 AM
The judgments are in.....

Judge one says:

A great debate! Both participants stated successfully that journalism has gone through a series of transitions. An evolution as it were. I think both argued well.
But I have to come to the topic title in order to judge this. Is journalism a dying "profession"? A profession. A job category.
adjensen clearly described the demise of journalism, and Spike Spiegle reinforced that when he spoke of citizen journalism.
That coincided with the aspects of "brand" journalism that adjensen also described. Citizen journalism is a "brand" journalism (at least that's what I took away from it).

A fascinating and well written debate on both sides.

adjensen takes the win, in my humble opinion.

Judge two says:

It's was a tie in my book at first, had to reread it a few times.

adjensen won the debate in my judgement. Spike Spiegle countered with very good counterpoints. His last post is the strongest in his argument and that point could have won him the match, however

Adjensen eloquently summed up Spike Spiegle's final piece with a ironic twist, as journalism had to adapt as each medium of communications evolved. Spike Spiegle supports Adjensens position with his last post as the media is having trouble competing in today's world with that other source of information, the citizen. In that "mainstream" journalism is in fact in decline due to the rise of citizen journalism and alternate sources as Spike Spiegle pointed out.

So, in a tightly contested and extremely close debate... adjensen wins! Serious kudos to both members for a stellar debate!

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