Journalism’s Death Spiral–A Disaster for Learning? A Disaster for Democracy?

You've undoubtedly heard that newspapers are in trouble.

But think about it this way–this means stories aren't being written–or are being written by (1) amateurs who largely do a poor job and (2) financially-motivated people who often do a biased job. 

When less information is uncovered, or when more information is biased, we have a recipe for disaster in a citizen-governed democracy.

Read this article from the Los Angeles Times to see the extent that journalism is crashing.

In order for a democracy to work, its citizens have to be learning from good sources.

Some say that the blogosphere will compensate for journalism's rapid death spiral. I'm not at all confident of this. People have to put in substantial time to do good honest reporting (and good honest research, by the way). Putting in a lot of time generally requires some kind of payment so the reporter can afford the computer, the roof, and the food to keep doing the reporting. 

I just don't see 100 people doing shallow reporting equaling the quality of one person doing deep reporting.

A full-time reporter puts in 40 to 60 hours a week, allowing them to dig deeper, develop more insights, and do fact checking. Part-time bloggers may put in one to five hours, maybe ten. Having a salary also makes it less likely that financial incentives will bias the reporter's work (ignore this for Fox News). 

I try to make this obvious in the following graphic. You might have to click on it to expand it and see the details.


Eventually, poor information will lead to poor decisions. Eventually the democracy implodes. Some may see signs of this already. Certainly, most of us would like our democracy to be doing a better job.

But with journalism's problems, it is bound to get worse.