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Media’s Mid-Life Crisis

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A version of this post previously appeared on LinkedIn.

We’ve all heard the narrative. Journalism is dead. If not, it’s on life support. To belabor the metaphor, I don’t believe journalism is dying. I think it’s just having a mid-life crisis.

Good news organizations are still driving our content today. In fact, a study by the Pew Research Center shows us that of the major news stories in one market during a one-week period, much of the “news” people received contained no original reporting. Fully eight out of ten stories studied simply repeated or repackaged previously published information. And of the stories that did contain new information nearly all, 95 percent, came from traditional media — most of them newspapers.

People still want good, quality journalism. They hunger for it. What’s more, we need it. That’s not the problem. The problem is the revenue model. The news media needs to figure out how to sustain itself.

So, journalists – how do you do it?

  1. Find ways to grow your historic role as a community backbone. We all know of events for which we need sponsors and chances for community engagement. Our media must stay front and center in those discussions. They can be sponsors, contributors, speakers or organizers.  People know reporters are often more informed and well-rounded. Let’s use that.
  2. Learn to sell something besides ads. Find ways to sell that content. I know, I know. Many are still horrified by the cursed paywall. But journalists have a quality product and they deserve to sell it.
  3. If you don’t sell the content, sell the writers. Put them out front and center at events, online, in speaking engagements. I know journalists can be self-effacing and avoid this community role. But your expertise and knowledge have tremendous value.  And valuable things should not go cheaply.

I believe in the future the news media can help us uncover fraud and abuse, investigate wrong-doing and find answers to the problems facing our communities. And we can use all of the channels available to us, from LinkedIn to Facebook to Twitter, to push that thoughtful content out there so we can learn from it.

Our imperative as a society is to find ways to partner up and work to make that possible. I know I am in. Are you?

Lauri Hennessey is vice president for Edelman’s Corporate & Public Affairs practice in Seattle, a member of the Board of the Seattle Chapter of Women in Communications and a former journalist.

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