David Simon: Downfall of Media, and True Value of Journalism

by Irma Arkus

Today I’ve been forwarded a link to the National Press Club Luncheon video of David Simon. While this gathering was (and probably still is) made up of overly wealthy and powerful media members, their numbers and their super-powers have been dwindling.

Interesting bit about the Simon’s lecture is what he identifies as underlying causes of media’s current crisis. He pins it at two things: greed and Wall Street. According to Simon, the money that should have been invested in generating quality content, talent development, and strategizing their actual Internet presence, ended being thrown at mergers, as the industry was seeking to increase their profit margins and pad their pockets.

According to David Simon, better known for his work as writer of award winning dramas “The Wire” and “Generation Kill,” the content currently available MUST start making profit.

But the media, newspapers and television combined, is reeling from the after effects of a flawed business model and profit pursuits. There is no longer a question of whether money needs to be made, but rather who will be making the profits.

Are we going to watch an entire industry fall, in order to give rise to new media, or are we to support the few dying dinosaurs clutching at straws?

I am currently enduring the fact that as an active member of media, I currently cannot find a paid job. I am doing the HiSciFi show, and write an occasional blog entry, for free. It would be great to get paid while doing things I love. But that does not seem to be the case. And this is not necessarily due to the fact that economy is reeling. The truth is that prior to this economic depression, the news nooses have been tightening, lay-offs and cost cutting was a regular thing in the halls of TV networks, newspaper and magazine boardrooms. It’s been getting harder to make money for the last 10 years in this industry, period.

David Simon is not oblivious to this. In fact, he points to the rise of mediocrity such as USA Today, and the narrowing number of reporters who were told to do “more with less.”

“You get to do less with less. Not more with less,” explains Simon.

At the same time, Simon is somewhat oblivious to the rising content of bloggerdom. He firmly believes in authority of “journalistic integrity” even though we’ve witnessed not only a) journalists turning to blogging, but b) the fact that journalism has reached a whole new low.

Anyways, Simon does shed some light on how the industry insiders feel about their former and current glory. And his insights are valuable. What I would like to see are some concrete solutions to current media woes.

Namely, his enthusiastic suggestion of charging for Internet content sounds like a relatively outdated idea, especially when considering how sophisticated Internet advertising can and could be.

That aside, it is worth glancing at Simon’s speech. Find video HERE.