Are Journalists Becoming Obsolete?


Another top name in journalism has departed.

Say good-bye to David Pogue, a brand-name technology columnist for the New York Times, who will now be working for Yahoo.

As a content marketer.

Pogue joins a long list of top-of-the-heap journalists bailing on newspapers and magazines to join the growing ranks of journalists working inside corporations. From Dan Lyons of Forbes going inside HubSpot to Ben Worthen of the Wall Street Journal joining Sequoia Capital, journalists are leaving the industry in droves.

In fact, the journalism jobs are at their lowest levels since 1978.

So here’s a question worth asking.

Are journalists becoming obsolete?

Are we witnessing the decline of a profession?

Will there be any such thing as journalists in 10 or 20 years? Will journalists join the ranks of other obsolete professions: Pony Express riders, telegraph operators, lamplighters, pinsetters or elevator operators? Or will it just become a niche profession like cobblers, blacksmiths and bookbinders?

While I’m being overdramatic, it isn’t as outrageous as it sounds.

Already companies are beginning to take control of their own content. Brand audiences on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter often surpass the reach of mainstream media outlets that of newspapers. Let this sink in for a minute: There are twice as many people following Starbucks on Facebook than the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, FOX-News, MSNBC and USA Today combined.


Why does Starbucks need the media to communicate to its customers and external audiences? It doesn’t.

Brands are learning to report on their own news – instead of giving it to third-party media companies. Brands have opened digital newsroom and have content creation strategies to publish their own content. And they are hiring professional writers, producers and journalists to create that content.

Now as a former journalist myself, I know that media companies just don’t report on brands. But other sources are undermining journalism. Sports news has been largely overtaken by fans – blogging, tweeting and using platforms like Tumblr. Who goes to the daily newspaper for sports news?

Movie, book and food coverage has also been taken over by amateurs and part-time professionals.

Will our news on politics, government and world events soon follow?

What do you think?


A Goodbye Note from Pogue

Marketing is the New Journalism

Will Anyone Ever Pay for Journalism Again?

9 Responses to “Are Journalists Becoming Obsolete?”

  1. The public won’t value the journalist’s role until they’re injured by lies and misinformation that should have been challenged. That’s the downside of getting information directly from sources. Sources can lie.

  2. To follow Mike, the return to newspapers awaits the public’s realization that the best source of information is not unchecked feeds from the government, from the businessman and, heck, from the football coach. (Yes, it could be a long wait.) That said, the financial standing of the business has not diminished the need for someone to chase the news – nor has it diminished my desire to chase the news.

  3. Good post. Yes, it’s distressing to me, this degradation of “news” –and literary criticism (everyone today is an “author” and “book reviewer”). Amateurs are just that: not fully equipped to report responsibly on major news stories and how can a democracy flourish without accurate, incisive reporting?

  4. Hi Margaret:
    We are likely at the beginning stages of finding out…

  5. George,
    You can’t have it both ways. If on one hand you advocate journalism as a necessary profession for a free society, you have to stop beating the Native Advertising Bandwagon.

    If on the other hand, you and the rest of the Social Media Marketeers/PR Flacks/Ad Men insist on turning journalists into brand stenographers, then you and the rest of the Social Media Loons are the cause of journalism obsolescence. Yeah you are gonna have to work harder to get these folks to write about your clients.

    Pogue presents an interesting case. He is arguably a ‘celebrity’ journalist, which changes the equation of news in as much folks may go to the NYT for his column, making him the star and the NYT, the delivery boy. Not so good for the rest of the paper. He is now his own Brand.

    The more interesting question is the reason for the change. Was it the Money? If so Journalism is becoming about the Benjamin’s Editorial Freedom? Were there constraints on his reporting at the NYT? Parking Space?

    You have mentioned in previous postings the trend of folks getting news in bits like 140 characters at a whack, and the hilarious lemmings following somebodies #hashtag down a rat hole. Besides a good story trumps facts every time.

    Journalism’s current employers for the most part are newspapers, who lost the battle for immediacy and updating with the first radio broadcast. Newspapers as a business using the Advertiser Supported Income model are a dying breed. They have been gutted by the internet, having their classifieds taken away by pure internet plays like Craigslist. The other major advertisers discovered that it is cheaper to use the internet with their own sites to turn clicks to cash. Subscriptions, especially online, don’t generate enough revenue to pay the electric bill for the servers. Let alone supporting the dead tree infrastructure.

    Where newspapers could shine is in the area of context. Who What and When can be blurted out in 140 characters, but Why requires much more work. Newspapers and other other News outlets have a vast institutional memory in their archives which can be leveraged to provide the Why, which is where their only chance of survival lays.

    Journalism isn’t dead, but that guy on the corner in the suit has a sign “Will Report For Food”.

  6. Hi Alan:
    Brands can report their own news and create their own content AND journalists can thrive and report. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It is ridiculous to blame social media and digital content from brands on the demise of journalism. It don’t see any connection. Nor do I advocate turning journalists into stenographers – in fact I write about the opposite – often.


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