“It is the best of times and it is the worst of times,” for journalism, according to Tom Herman ’68, a former editor of the Wall Street Journal and lecturer at Yale. Herman discussed journalism’s evolution in the Jonathan Edwards common room on Wednesday afternoon.
Although it has never been easier to disseminate information around the globe, it has never been easier to spread misinformation, Herman said. And while it has never been easier to get the information necessary for quality investigations, these investigations aren’t happening because people gravitate toward other content.
“At some organizations they pay by the eyeball,” he said, meaning that the more viewers the article generates, the more money the author makes. To Herman, this is problematic. One site had 600,000 viewers check out a picture of a sad rabbit, but failed to come anywhere near that number with a single news article.
So in a world where people would rather stare at a sad rabbit than read a news article, how do reputable news organizations survive? Herman offered several solutions to this problem.
Some news organizations are now run as charities. ProPublica, for example, is a non-profit news organization that has already won two Pulitzer prizes. Another solution is government subsidies. Herman expects most papers to pursue what he calls a hybrid model, in which corporations create a pay wall for their online news and use that to bolster their print publications.
It still might not be enough to save the daily paper.
“The print world will never be the same,” Herman said. “We may be headed primarily towards an online world.”