Can Journalism Be Saved? Rediscovering America's Appetite for News

Can Journalism Be Saved? Rediscovering America's Appetite for News

Can Journalism Be Saved? Rediscovering America's Appetite for News

Can Journalism Be Saved? Rediscovering America's Appetite for News


By some measures, it would seem that print journalism is dying. Journalism recently suffered one of its worst circulation declines in years: a drop of more than ten percent in the a six month period ending September 30, 2009. "The Rocky Mountain News" in Denver, CO, closed its doors in 2009--after it dominated the AP awards in 2008, and was lauded for an investigative expose on unfair treatment of former nuclear workers. Even the "New York Times" and the "Washington Post "are experiencing financial trouble. But print advertising revenue still trumps online advertising revenue ten-fold. Is there hope yet for traditional journalism?

This book reviews the complicated challenge facing journalism, tracing its 19th-century community-oriented origins and documenting the vast expansion of the news business via blogs and other Internet-enabled outlets, user-generated content, and news-like alternatives. The author argues that a radical shift in mindset--striving to meet each individual's demands for what he wants to know--will be necessary to save journalism.


I began in 2004, after a few years of working as a journalist at the Arizona Republic in Phoenix, research on bringing young adults back to newspapers. I was immediately confronted with the words of a professor who became one of my mentors. Philip Meyer, author of the Vanishing Newspaper and Precision Journalism, challenged me to focus on a problem that could actually be solved. He was not, I realized after a year into the doctoral program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, pushing me to another research area altogether but encouraging me to shed my industry-based preconceptions and to think of what I was interested in via a relevant framework.

With Meyer’s encouragement and the support of so many others— Rhonda Gibson, my dissertation co-chair; Dan Sullivan, a visiting professor at Chapel Hill during my time there; and faculty inside and outside my discipline—I found that framework: social identity. I have spent the years since fleshing out its relevance in the media industry. My dissertation, which was completed in 2007, revealed a disconnect between social responsibility of the press theory and online journalism.

This book attempts to fill that gap with a new model. “The search for a future for serious reporting is the journalism story of our time,” wrote Columbia Journalism Review Executive Editor Mike Hoyt in the September/ October 2009 issue. This book is about that future. To this point, figuring out how to preserve journalism’s community-service function under the social responsibility model has consumed the industry’s attention. the preponderance of this attention has focused on how to fund the vital work . . .

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