Thursday, March 20, 2008

Internet news is no longer a funny business

The Pew Research Center for Excellence in Journalism released a study with an ominous message for the state of news reporting everywhere. According to the report, financial woes are now the number one concern for journalists, overshadowing such minor things as quality and credibility. Staff is being cut at news organizations around the country, with more and more local news outlets (on and offline) relying increasingly on content generated by fewer and fewer sources.

This affects those involved in the production or dissemination of news satire, because most of us have fairly strong opinions about journalism. Usually, news satirists opt for a pseudo-journalistic approach precisely in order to highlight the problems of the real media. In other words, we care about good reporting, and challenge the mainstream media when it doesn't deliver by exaggerating (and thus highlighting) its flaws.

The web has had some positive effects on journalism, enhancing transparency of sources, for example, and making it easier to link related information. But it has had deleterious effects on the business end of the news, and ultimately, the bottom line is what it's all about. It's not just satire webmasters struggling with low AdSense rates of return - even the big media guys are having trouble making their websites a worthwhile return on investment. As a result, they're cutting corners, and the product suffers as a result. The drop in diversity and quality of news online may provide extra material to satirists, but we're not laughing about it.

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Satire pervades the web, seeping into mailboxes and mainstream news like a spilled cup of coffee. It stains and it won't go away.

The Bitter Cup is a collaborative blog for members of HumorFeed, a collaborative of satire and humor sites that has been making trouble since 2003.