New media v. old media back home at ol’ Mizzou

Back at my alma mater, the journalism school‘s faculty and the board of the Columbia Missourian are trying to figure out what the heck to do with a failing community newspaper.

There’s nothing unusual about the situation. Newspapers all over the country are in the same sinking boat and have been for years. Print sales are falling, and classified sales are virtually nonexistent. But there is something unusual about the Missourian: The paper serves as a learning lab for every student in a print or online media sequence in the journalism school. It’s not a student newspaper — it’s a community daily.

(However, one of MU’s student newspapers, the Maneater, covered the story here.)

The board is interested in being financially stable, but because of the Missourian’s place in the j-school curriculum, they also have to meet the needs of the students. So they’re throwing every option out there for consideration, including abandoning the 100-year-old press across the street (Missouri is the country’s oldest journalism school) and going putting all of their eggs in the online basket.

The story broke several weeks ago, but for some reason, just this week the j-school alumni have started discussing the plight of the Missourian on our Yahoo group. Since it’s so personal to all of us who suffered through the crash course in newspaper journalism that the Missourian provides, it’s been the most heated and nuanced discussion I’ve seen about new media.

The Missourian has been ahead of its time in going online, creating a citizen journalism project, offering a downloadable PDF version of the daily print version, mobile news and multimedia storytelling. Will it also be an early adopter of the next way to be a newspaper — to eliminate the paper? It’s hard to say just yet, beause this isn’t about the fate of a newspaper. It’s about where journalism education is right now and where it will go next.

Up next, the best of the alumni arguments.

You signed up for this

As promised, here’s part two of why the media scrutiny of Sarah Palin is perfectly normal.

When you run for public office in this country, you are fair game in the eyes of the media. The American people are electing you to a position of power. You are meant to represent the voice and will of the people. You will oversee our tax dollars and enforce or create our laws.

So if you’re running for office, we the people want to know a little bit about you.

Someone has to learn all about you and disseminate that information to the public, because if we don’t know who we’re voting for, then we no longer live in a democracy. The handlers for politicians aren’t going to give you the whole story, because they’re working for the politicians to make them look their best. The pundits pick and choose what information they disseminate based on an agenda; they answer to their base.

Now, a lot of people aren’t going to believe this, and it is a bit shocking, so I hope you’re sitting down: The media works for and answers to YOU.

Yeah yeah, we can argue about corporate ownership of the major news organizations, someone can chime in with a quip about Rupert Murdoch and skewer the “media elite,” and don’t even get me started on how the mainstream media covers celebrities. I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t a perfect system.

However, when you boil it down to the basics, the whole point of the profession of journalism is to serve the public by giving them the truth.

So is the press picking on Sarah Palin, or anyone else involved with the election? No. She chose to accept the nomination and knew the consequences. Like every politician before her, she has chosen to enter a profession that puts her and her family in the spotlight. And the press, as the only nongovernmental check on power, is simply doing its job and investigating a person who chose this path.

If you don’t like it, then you shouldn’t have signed up for this.