Traditional print journalism losing impact?

The New York Observer printed an interesting article Tuesday asking the simple question: Is print journalism impacting this election cycle in the same way it has others before it?

The answer from New York Times editors and reporters was “No.”

Despite dwindling newsroom staffs and relatively fewer resources than cycles past, print journalists are still reporting and uncovering a number of important campaign-related stories this year, the same journalists say, but those stories are getting lost in the growing haystack that is the Internet.

New media, such as blogs, online news sites and commentary have flooded Americans with so much information, and sometimes misinformation, the ability for a hard-hitting New York Times’ story to have legs that can make it through a news cycle lasting longer than “first thing in the morning,” is becoming more difficult.

Times editor Bill Keller is quoted in the Observer article as saying television news seems to shy away from complicated stories that newspapers like the Times and The Washington Post produce because they are harder to explain in the easy-to-understand fashion that media users are looking for today.

“The simple-minded silliness of lipstick-on-a-pig filled at least one cable news cycle, but the question of what kind of executive Sarah Palin has been as mayor and governor didn’t lend itself to the bite-sized format of the nightly news or the constant low-grade babble of cable,” Keller said in the Observer piece.

But, some are beginning to wonder if the Internet itself, and the way it provides summed up, bite-sized tidbits, is beginning to change the way people want to get information. Or in other words, are the days when people want to read a 3,000-word article gone in favor of the Cliff Notes version?

An interesting article printed in The Atlantic earlier this year examined whether or not the human brain is slowly changing its ability to process large chunks of text as the world continues to get summarized, easy-to-understand tidbits online. If that is the case, and people are more interested in a 300-word summary rather than a 3,000-word story, what kind of impact will it have on America’s ability to get beyond the hype in elections and down to issues?

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Jason Kosena

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