Meyer, who holds the Knight Chair in Journalism at the University of North Carolina, writes that the lack of investigative reporting at the state legislature level by newspapers affects the everyday lives of citizens. To fill the vacuum, other organizations, such as The Center for Public Integrity are providing their own research and playing the watchdog role once fiercely held by newspapers.
We know newspapers have always tried to maintain a difficult balance between profit-making and serving the public good. But now the scale begun to tip. Increased competition, conglomeration and investor pressures, along with growing demand for infotainment, have left little for thorough analysis and investigative reporting.
To Meyer, and we agree, the implications intriguing: “As newspapers grow weaker, other institutions must fill the vacuum.… It might require new forms of media still unborn, creating their own traditions, to do the trick. We need to keep an eye on that process and support the good guys.”
But where does that leave newspapers? Are they doomed to die like dinosaurs or can they still find ways to differentiate and become competitive?
In an e-mail, Meyer responds: “In an economic climate where globalization is making everything a commodity, maybe even news, it gets harder to find ways to add value. But one good that is still scarce in the information age is trust. Newspapers — or whatever replaces them — might prosper if they can corner the market on trust. This works out to an argument for newspapers doing just the opposite of what they are doing now and improving the product, gaining the position in the consumer’s head as the most trusted source of news and information.”
Will focusing on becoming the “trusted source” be enough to take to the bank? Meyer is developing the research behind this idea. Check out his Quality Project to learn more. One note of disclosure: NDN, which is a sponsor of Meyer’s research, also provided a grant to us to study participatory journalism.