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The Death Of the Tribune’s Business Model Doesn’t Mean Journalism Is Dead

May 2, 2014

Yesterday Jesse wrote that the Salt Lake Tribune should die, and the arrogance of the “Save the Tribune” petition and movement is just further proof of why. He argued that traditional print media’s business model is failing, and no softly bigoted campaign to save the Tribune from the evil clutches of the LDS owned Deseret News will change that.

The response from journalists was swift and aggressive. And much of it just further proves Jesse’s point.

While I do see a need for full-time, professional journalism because part-time, unpaid bloggers can only do so much, Jesse’s blog post garnered a lot of attention and kickstarted long conversations in social media. But even more telling to me was some of the responses from the journalists themselves in the form of comments on Jesse’s post.

In a post with a headline proclaiming main stream media’s arrogance, main stream media jumps into the comment section and…turns into the grammar police. That’s your big beef with a post saying your business model is dying? To attack grammar? There was of course the obligatory snark about blogging from your mom’s basement, but there was also this nugget:

“Yes, because everyone wants to hear the LDS point of view </Sarcasm>”

Grammar policing, snark, and anti LDS sentiment – maybe the problem is that journalists have been spending too much time in the Tribune comment section and it’s starting to rub off.

There is good reporting and good reporters at the Salt Lake Tribune. Journalism is an integral part of our country’s success. There’s a reason why freedom of the press is enshrined in our Bill of Rights. However, for all the praise heaped upon the Tribune by its supporters, and for all the high-minded talk about the press’s role in our society, the mainstream media is getting a huge vote of no confidence from the public they’re supposed to be serving. In 2012, when people were asked how much they trusted the media to report the news “fully, accurately, and fairly” 60% of us said not much or not at all. That is a terrible, terrible record. When 60% of your customer base doesn’t think you do your job well, you’re gonna have problems.

I think it’s clear that newspaper’s current business model doesn’t generate enough revenue to stay afloat. Budget cuts and layoffs nationwide seem to make that indisputable. It’s also clear to me that professional journalism, when it’s good, is extremely valuable to our society. Just because people don’t read the morning paper anymore doesn’t mean journalism is dead. There are multiple 24 hour a day news channels being supported by the public right now, and many online sources with plenty of clicks. Clearly, there is still demand for news. Even long form journalism generates interest today. So no, I don’t think the economic failure of the Tribune business model portends the death of journalism. What I do believe though, is that whatever model takes its place will only be successful if they are able to win over the skeptical 60%.

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