FT’s Barber cuts to the heart of the press problem

Some interesting points from a weekend opinion piece by Financial Times Editor Lionel Barber.
Barber analyzed how the press — particularly in the United States — got to the miserable place that it’s in now. There are plenty of reasons having to do with business models and impatient Wall Street vultures, but Barber brought up an interesting idea: the mainstream media disenfranchised itself from the public’s trust as it became more cozy with its high-level sources — precisely at the time that the Internet started to annihilate the U.S. newspaper business model.

Barber relies on Michael Elliott, the British-born editor of Time’s international edition, to sum up the U.S. newspaper crisis:

A broken business model overly reliant on classified advertising revenue that has now moved online; a mistaken notion that post-1945 newspaper staffs of 800-plus journalists were the norm rather than a historical aberration; and, crucially, a stultifying failure to innovate because of the lack of competition.

(This last part, when applied to newsrooms, amounts to blaming the victim, Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi suggests in an American Journalism Review article out recently.)

Elliott suggests that the U.S. press could be more fun.

“The mainstream press in America is so conservative,” Elliott says. “Where are the DVD giveaways, where are the special promotions like in Britain? Look at the sports pages! They write about sport like they do City Hall. Where is the sense of fun?”

Less news=good news, AP study says

brazilians-online.jpgWhat the world needs now is a little less news.

A new study by the Associated Press and “ethnographic research firm” Context-Based Research Group says people aged 18-34 are overloaded with facts and updates and have trouble connecting with more in-depth stories. At the same time, they yearn for quality and in-depth reporting while having difficulty getting immediate access to that content.

The study, which surveyed young adults in Britain, India and the United States, also helped the AP and Context develop a new model for news consumption after discovering that younger generations get their news in a dramatically different fashion from their elders.


Participants in this study almost always consumed news as part of another set of activities and therefore were unable to give their full attention to the news. This is very different from previous news consumption models where people sat down to watch the evening news or read the morning paper. Multitasking prevented participants from becoming completely engaged with a news story and therefore interaction with the news was limited to headlines and news updates