Issue Date: June 15, 2009
Price Of Journalism
With all due respect to Rudy Baum, newspapers were in serious trouble well before the economic meltdown (C&EN, May 4, page 3). Frankly, newspapers are no longer what a significant portion of the paying public wants when they have a plethora of choices about where to go for information. Major television networks and music publishers are struggling with the same challenge. In a free market, it's called competition.
As those of us who have worked for most of our careers in chemistry-based businesses have learned through experience, companies and industries either adapt to changing times or they disappear. Adapting is painful for people in the industry; the latter can be much worse. On the other hand, the process can be used by strong, well-managed companies to weed out inefficiencies that need to be eliminated.
I strongly recommend that the management and staff of C&EN bear this in mind during these difficult times. If not, you are likely to discover what chemical industry as well as newspaper employees know all too well: Customers are not sympathetic to a decrease in product quality, irrespective of difficult times. They simply find another supplier.
The May 4 issue of C&EN came today, and I read a number of the articles and the editorial, "The Price of Journalism." I also read the first letter to the editor, titled "Not appropriate for Newscripts." Between those two pieces are some of the answers to the issues raised about the state of journalism in society today. I have been a member of ACS for more than 40 years and have seen a few changes in C&EN as well as in the rest of the profession.
I believe journalism is on a path to its own obsolescence because it is ceasing to be a profession. Journalism no longer seeks the truth. Instead of doing the due diligence to discover truth, there has been a lazy shift toward finding out what other journalists are thinking and accepting that "consensus" as being truth. This low-effort approach tends to segment the readership and undermine confidence in what used to be a profession. The same thing would happen to science if consensus were accepted as scientific truth.
This shift is a move from the search for truth that used to be journalism to the lower level of the "blogosphere." Who needs the printed word if the standards are no higher than the most recent blog posting? It is my sincere hope that a few brave souls will revive journalism to its former glory and, perhaps, save the profession. It will take the level of courage and hard work that is expected of ACS members who labor to find truth in the professions of chemistry. C&EN would best serve its readers by maintaining a similar standard.
Robert G. Allred
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