The last decade has been pretty rough for journalists, with the slow, painful decline of a newspaper industry that never got the Internet and are paying the price. And if recent stories are believed, even those digital platforms have started diminishing the value of written content now. The grand statement, in recent months, is that thoughtful written insight and news content is far less important than opinionated loudmouths and video content.
ESPN and Fox Sports are good examples of championing the noise over the rational. ESPN opted to lay off hundreds of staff, which included practically wiping out hockey coverage. Meanwhile, bloviators, such as Stephen A. Smith, were retained, even though their salaries far outpaced those who were let go.
Fox Sports recently followed suit with that idea, essentially eliminating the entire writing staff for Fox Sports Digital. And in place of the content generated by the digital staff, the talking heads that appear on Fox Sports One, most prominently the persistently low-rated Skip Bayless, will have their hot takes transcribed to the site, more or less.
Another huge blow came out of the offices of MTV, as it decided to part ways with several members of its writing staff, most of which were refugees from the shuttered ESPN/Bill Simmons venture, The Undisputed. Ironically, MTV is shifting its focus to video, though likely not music videos, which generally take a backseat to shows like Teen Mom.
The argument? Video is the medium of choice for consumers these days.
You’ll excuse me if I don’t buy that.
Maybe it’s just me, but the thought of visiting a site like FoxSports.com and being inundated with videos isn’t appealing at all.
And that’s if the content wasn’t just regurgitating what’s on the air, which Fox Sports seems hellbent on pushing online, leaving capable and thoughtful writers (Ken Rosenthal being a recent example), left unemployed and picking up the pieces.
What makes matters worse is that when the top players start doing things, those further down the media food chain tend to follow suit. As a consequence, writers who are trying to get their foot in the door as journalists soon realize that they are woefully unprepared to undertake the dual role as both writer and videographer. And even if they do, they find their best efforts taking a back seat to the loudmouth sitting next to them who gets more traffic.
All of this smacks of yet another example of the inability of media outlets to maximize its revenue potential without sacrificing its written content. And it leaves would-be journalists to seek life outside media and diminishes the quality of work produced, particularly at the local level.
Consumers who prefer written content that isn’t a one-way trip to Hot Take-ville do have a choice. Visit those sites that promote quality over volume. And support them as best you can, be it through visiting their advertisers and paying for site subscriptions. Let writers know that you value their work enough to understand that they have to pay the bills, too.
Image via Flickr/Keith Allison