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What’s the Most Endangered Species of Journalism?

December 1, 2011

Almost every journalist these days feels like their beat is the most likely to become extinct first. Is one species of journalism more endangered than another?

At a panel discussion last night on the Stanford campus featuring members of the investigative reporter team from the Los Angeles Times that won the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of corruption among civic officials in the city of Bell, California, the moderator said that investigative journalism was the most endangered of all journalistic forms. His reasoning was that investigative journalism is expensive (The LA Times had 20 reporters working on the Bell story) and takes a long time (the Bell story developed over months and months.)

It strikes me that while investigative journalism is a strong contender for the "most likely to become extinct first" prize, arts journalists could give the investigative crowd a run for their pink slips. Stories about arts and culture media layoffs are rife on ArtsJournal.com, for one thing. And I guess nearly everyone in this industry, from Op-Ed columnists to weather reporters, feels like their heads might roll first. Perhaps it's only the sports journalists who are sitting pretty.

So I wonder if it's useful to think about journalism in these terms? We're all feeling like the future is foggy. No one type of journalism is more at risk than the others. We need to devote our energies to coming up with viable business models and content paradigms to strengthen the role of the media in the future and spend less time brooding about the spilled blood.

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