The economic reality of the news biz

16 05 2009

I am genuinely interested in journalism. I try to contribute empirically to a public and academic debate about the quality (and future) of journalism. I read newspapers, blogs, academic papers about journalism and I find what journalists do useful. I find the ongoing crisis in news media fascinating and worrying.

But I have no stomach for the latest rounds of lay-offs at De Morgen, the newspaper I love to hate. Two people in particular whom I admire will be sacked. One is a poet, the other is a sports journalist. I met the first, Bernard Dewulf, on a basketball court 8 years ago. Since then, we’ve been hoopin’ it up every Wednesday. Bernard has a smooth stroke and a killer right drive. The second, Hans Vandeweghe, I met at a couple of triathlon races, including my own. Hans is not a nice guy. A mister know-it-all. A throwback investigative sports journalist. But a damn good one.

Bernard writes columns that can end wars. Every office space I’ve ever worked in was, has been or is adorned by one of his columns. I admire his observational talent and love how he manages to lift the mundane out of its dreariness. I understand the market logic of the news biz, but fail to put this sad news into perspective.

Bernard Dewulf (picture by Julie Van Craen, flickr.com)


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2 responses

16 06 2009
Bridget Gillespie Paverd

Nothing short of a tragedy as we watch the global newsprint industry fight for its life, and talent like Dewulf become collateral damage in this war on numbers. So, zillions of readers will be deprived of the routine we have all come to love – digesting Dewulf’s wise and cracking perception on both the ordinary and the magnificent. How sad. Hurry up with another book Bernard – and this time include us (the USA) in your leacture tours!

16 06 2009
Tom Van Hout

Hi Bridget, thanks for your thoughtful comment. It is indeed the news *industry* (i.e. the business model of printing) that is bleeding red ink. I don’t buy for a minute that journalism is on its last legs. The activity of journalism (providing information) is merely adjusting to new technologies.

That being said, the concept of a newspaper suddenly sounds very outdated. I don’t want to read yesterday’s news in print, I want insight, commentary, analysis, emotion. In short, everything Bernard’s columns provided. I too hope to read Bernard’s work elsewhere soon.

Best,
Tom

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