Long-time Reporter Clark Kent is now a Blogger!

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One-third of reporter jobs have been downsized, so who is going to fight for the public interest?

Clark Kent aka Superman, the long-time reporter at the Daily Planet, is now a blogger!

That’s the surprising news announced in a recent issue of the comic book series when  Kent announces he is finished at the Daily Planet after a tongue lashing from his boss.

In the real world, newspapers and magazines have been forced to cut costs to maintain profit margins. And reporters are taking a hit, particularly those who are investigative reporters. One-third of newsroom jobs have been eliminated in recent years.  Many big name journalists have left their long-time employers to join on line web sites. Among them is Howard Kurtz, formerly of the Washington Post, now at the Daily Beast, as well as Howard Fineman, formerly at Newsweek, now the editorial director of Huffington Post Media Group.

Reporters who worked on investigative stories are a particular target of the budget cutters because of the amount of resources required to fund lengthy and  time-consuming investigative reports. Who is going to look out for the public interest in this new environment?

According to the American Society of News Editors’ annual newsroom census approximately 5,900 positions were eliminated during 2008 and 5,200 full-time newsroom positions eliminated in 2009. A similar number were lost in 2010. In 2011, for the first time in three years, there was no reduction in jobs.  

The Project for Excellence in Journalism at the Pew Research Center said in its “State of the Media 2010” report, that all these newsroom cuts and layoffs “[are] a pronounced drop in time-consuming investigative projects and serious day-to-day local accountability reporting.”

However, despite the decline in newsroom staff around the country, a hopeful trend has developed, if you think investigative reporting is important. Due to a large number of layoffs, many experienced journalists are getting involved in non-profit investigative reporting undertakings.

Many have begun web-based investigative reporting organizations such as the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Pulitzer Prize-winning, ProPublica. There are now roughly 700 of these groups. Most of these organizations have incorporated into nonprofit organizations, 501(c) non-profit model, which makes the organization tax-exempt.

These groups are non-partisan and provide online resources to make transparent their efforts.

Non-profit news outlets such as ProPublica, offer tools and databases for readers to have a transparent view into everything from breakdowns of how many companies are getting bailout money from the U.S government, to tracking how long your state’s unemployment trust funds will hold up.

And there have been other recent trends about news of late:

News Know-how

In the current news environment, information literacy skills are more important than ever and libraries are playing a key role.

As part of a new program from the American Library Association, News Know-how, students from around the country are learning information literacy principles to help them develop critical thinking skills and analyze news coverage in all of its formats.

Libraries that participated in the inaugural year of the project included the Chicago Public Library, Oak Park (Ill.) Public Library and several Iowa rural and urban libraries working with the Iowa State Library.

The project is supported by the Open Society Foundations and the lead training organization is the News Literacy Project Inc.

“Eight in ten who get news on smart phones or tablets, for instance, get news on conventional computers as well. People are taking advantage, in other words, of having easier access to news throughout the day – in their pocket, on their desks and in their laps.

“There has been an explosion of new mobile platforms and social media channels represents another layer of technology with which news organizations must keep pace.

“All this raises the question of whether the technology giants will find it in their interest to acquire major legacy news brands — as part of the “everything” they offer consumers. Does there come a point, to ensure the much smaller media company’s survival, for instance, where Facebook considers buying a legacy media partner such as The Washington Post?

“There are already signs of closer financial ties between technology giants and news. As a part of YouTube’s plans to become a producer of original television content, a direction it took strongly last year, it is funding Reuters to produce original news shows.  Yahoo recently signed a content partnership with ABC News for the network to be its near sole provider of news video. AOL, after seeing less than stellar success with its attempts to produce its own original content, purchased The Huffington Post. With the launch of its Social Reader, Facebook has created partnerships with The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and others. In March 2012 Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes purchased the 98-year-old New Republic magazine.

"The problems of newspapers also became more acute in 2011. Even as online audiences grew, print circulation continued to decline. Even more critically, so did ad revenues. In 2011, losses in print advertising dollars outpaced gains in digital revenue by a factor of roughly 10 to 1, a ratio even worse than in 2010. When circulation and advertising revenue are combined, the newspaper industry has shrunk 43 percent since 2000.

“The civic implications of the decline in newspapers are also becoming clearer. More evidence emerged that newspapers (whether accessed in print or digitally) are the primary source people turn to for news about government and civic affairs. If these operations continue to shrivel or disappear, it is unclear where, or whether, that information would be reported.

As for Clark Kent, “I don't think he's going to be filling out an application anywhere,” Lobdell said. “He is more likely to start the next Huffington Post or the next Drudge Report than he is to go find someone else to get assignments or draw a paycheck from.”

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster who created Superman and sold it when they were teenagers to DC Comics for a couple of hundred dollars, first imagined Kent as a bald mad scientist. 

To deflect suspicion that he is Superman, Clark Kent adopted a passive and introverted personality with conservative mannerisms, a higher-pitched voice, and a slight slouch. His  personality is typically described as “mild-mannered.”

Visit your local library for more resources on this topic.

 

 

Images:

Superman #296, published by DC Comics.

Screenshot: From the television series Adventures of Superman, showing stars George Reeves, John Hamilton, and Robert Shayne.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ADV_Stars_01.jpg

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