Are reporters doomed?

A British newspaper editor is predicting “the end of the reporter” in a new media world. David Leigh of the Guardian envisions a future in which “news bunnies” and bloggers will have a role to play, but not “proper reporters.” His contention is that the real power of reporting does not lie with journalists but with powerful media outlets.

When the media fragment — as they will — and splinter into a thousand websites, a thousand digital channels, all weak financially, then we will see a severe reduction in the power of each individual media outlet. The reporter will struggle to be heard over the cacophony of a thousand other voices. Politicians will no longer fear us. And if that day comes, I’m afraid it really will be the end of the reporter.

Is he suggesting that competition isn’t good for journalism?

That’s what it sounds to John Kelly, a Washington Post reporter now on a fellowship at Oxford University. On is Voxford blog, Kelly says journalists should have more faith in the market.

I won’t impose different standards on my profession than I would on any other. Yes, I think what we do is different–more important? more sacred?–than what General Motors or Toyota do, but the way we survive and thrive in the future…is by rising to the challenge: think of ways to make our product better, more relevant, more transcendent. We take the best of the old and the best of the new, trusting that if we do that correctly we can’t help but succeed. In other words, we compete.

Fair enough. But Kelly and Leigh both seem to think that the only form of journalism that’s worth anything is journalism supported by big media companies. That concept is clearly under siege. [See NewAssignment‘s Off the Bus and Assignment Zero, for example.] What matters most is not who pays for the journalism but the kind of journalism that’s produced. And that will depend as much as it ever has on the journalistic skills and values of the reporters who produce it. Doomed? I don’t think so.

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