Recently, Capital Newspapers, publishers of the Wisconsin State Journal and what's left of The Capital Times, announced further reductions in staff, the continuation of a shrinking process that has gone on for far too long now. Where it will stop, nobody knows.
Jay Rath, author of our cover story this week, "The Future of Journalism," doesn't claim to know, but he describes some of the dubious practices now masquerading as journalism, as well as some of the newer forms that seek to maintain the primary newsgathering function. Journalism as we know it is in dire need of a new business model.
Or maybe the old one was abandoned too soon. There is a movement afoot currently for the gray ladies (i.e., the ink-on-paper heritage press) to recast their web presence behind a pay wall, which some experts say they should have done in the first place. Maybe so, but it's going to be hard to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
I don't worry too much about these things, since I don't think the element essential to the propagation of journalism is going away. That element is, of course, the journalists. They are a breed that can't help themselves - they have to know. Good journalists are primarily driven by curiosity and a bit of anti-authoritarianism, and are protected in their compulsion by the Constitution, or some other rights-insuring document.
So, as long as some folks strive to create the vehicles, be they blogs or newsprint or magazines or websites, there will be folks eager to fill them with information. And as long as information is accessible, there will be people trying to make something out of that information. I don't see that process stopping, just new ways coming along to carry it out.