Thursday, February 15, 2007

Highlighting good journalism

Here's something I should have known about before but didn't: It's a blog by a Northwestern journalism professor who trolls daily for really good journalism -- stories that are groundbreaking, innovative, watchdog oriented or particularly well told. It's called Jon Marshall's News Gems, and it's worth a regular look.

Marshall provides reliable evidence that good, important journalism persists to this day, in spite of every hurdle news organizations face and the remarkable hostility journalists face from nearly all segments of society.

And, while we're talking about good news, Reuters reports today on some empirical evidence that spending money on your newsroom is a way to make money in the news business. This ought to be a no-brainer, but of course media bean counters have been betting on the opposite premise for well over a decade -- cost cutting themselves right out of business.

The new evidence comes from a study by the University of Missouri-Columbia, a top-flight J-School. I suppose you could argue that the study's authors have a vested interest in these results, since bigger newsrooms means more jobs means better placement for journalism school graduates. But the spokesperson for this study, Esther Thorson, associate dean for graduate studies at Missouri's J-school, is an advertising professor, touting results indicating that newsroom spending is more lucrative than spending on any other department in the news business.

If we're lucky, the bigwigs with the fancy suits will pay heed to this study and stop gutting newsrooms so we can get more of the good work highlighted by Jon Marshall. Unfortunately, the momentum to bleed news organizations to death might be too powerful to overcome at this point. Time will tell.

UPDATE: Here's an interview with Thorson from the public radio business program "Marketplace," which gets a big shout-out in my book for its smart and creative journalism.

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