Economist Lisa George: Journalism Survivors Will Earn More

Lisa George, an empirical economist and professor at Hunter College in New York City, says there probably will be “fewer journalists in the future. But those that remain in the market will probably earn much more.”

Here is why, according to George:

People who do read internet news focus on many fewer sources than what we see in the hard news or the old fashioned newspaper, physical paper world. That means that the journalist whose articles were at the back page of Section B at a middle of the road newspaper is probably not going to see too much readership in the future. Instead, some of the best reporters and the most insightful commentary will come from fewer and fewer sources. But these reporters will have national reputations, and those reputations will be well-financed both from media itself and also from books and speaking engagements.

For the complete Leonard Witt interview with Lisa George see the video or read the entire transcript below.

Also be sure to see to his interviews with Clay Shirky, Jay Rosen and Michael Schudson. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the Center for Sustainable Journalism for alerts as we post future interviews with Penelope Abernathy, Robert Picard, Jeff Jarvis and others who talk with Leonard Witt about the Future of Journalism. The subscription field is in the sidebar to the right.

   

Len Witt:  Hi. I’m Len Witt and I’m here with Lisa George. And she can tell you her title and where she’s at, and the big question I’m going to ask is: what is the future of journalism? And you’re an economist, so you’re going to approach it from an economic view.

Lisa George:  My name is Lisa George. I’m a professor at Hunter College, part of the City University System in New York.  And I am an empirical economist. Most of my work involves data and facts. Although today in this audience for lawyers and journalists, I took a somewhat more theoretical approach: What does economics say about the future of journalism and media.  So a few of the conclusions that I’ve made from my work is that we’ll expect to see much more dis-integrated news media firms. So fewer journalists working for media companies, but journalists working independently, and as independent experts. Probably fewer journalists in the future. But those that remain in the market will probably earn much more.

Witt:  Why is that? You said that superstar thing, can you tell me about that?

George:  Well I guess it comes from technology opens markets. So when you now are somewhat confined to the local paper or the local station where you used to read about technology or health care or religion, or cooking or things you were interested in, or day to day happenings in the country, if you want to read one or two articles on these topics a week, you can read them from the best source.  So not every type of content is amenable to this, but we see it pretty dramatically from internet data.  People who do read internet news focus on many fewer sources than what we see in the hard news or the old fashioned newspaper, physical paper world.  That means that the journalist whose articles were at the back page of Section B at a middle of the road newspaper is probably not going to see too much readership in the future. Instead, some of the best reporters and the most insightful commentary will come from fewer and fewer sources. But these reporters will have national reputations, and those reputations will be well-financed both from media itself and also from books and speaking engagements.

Witt:  Is that a good thing or a bad thing for the public square?

George:  It’s generally a very good thing because people can read more and better stuff. The challenge today, and a lot of what our debate was about, well some types of news and particularly local coverage, is not, the market isn’t open. It’s not larger. There’s not a national market to know what’s happening day to day in, say, Philadelphia.  But yet there’s still entry in this market. There are more online outlets, more voices competing for attention with traditional media. And this makes coverage better. Absolutely. And so I feel pretty strongly about that.  And I think the arguments to the contrary, that the crisis in journalism, are really very overly pessimistic. So of course there are subtleties to this and that doesn’t answer everything. But that’s my view from the economic side.

Witt:  So you’re an optimist?

George:  In this conference I seem to be an optimist. Although Paul is optimistic as well.

Witt:  Thank you very much. 

 

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2 Responses to Economist Lisa George: Journalism Survivors Will Earn More
  1. Maurice Cardinal
    December 31, 2009 | 6:17 pm

    You’re describing Lisa, what occurred in the music industry in the late 90′s and to date.

    Elite artists lost their influence as middle of the chart artists, who were just as talented, contributed more regularly to a music market that became increasingly fractured.

    Elite artists still find success at major record labels, but their numbers are considerably less.

    And relatively speaking, successful mid line artists increased in numbers, but shared the same gross dividends.

    It’s still shaking out ten years later and will need at least another five to settle into a formula that can be identified.

  2. links for 2010-01-02 « Sarah Hartley
    January 2, 2010 | 2:02 pm

    [...] Economist Lisa George: Journalism Survivors Will Earn More – Center for Sustainable Journalism The challenge today, and a lot of what our debate was about, well some types of news and particularly local coverage, is not, the market isn’t open. It’s not larger. (tags: journalism future business news futureofnews economics) [...]

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