October 20, 2009 — In a Shorenstein Center discussion, Jim Hoge, editor of Foreign Affairs, referred to his own experiences at the Chicago Sun-Times and the New York Daily News to talk about the future of the newspaper business.
Hoge outlined two categories of essential news: accountability journalism, in which the “conduct of public affairs” is monitored by “a vigorous and competent part of the news process,” and international affairs, essential in a democracy because “foreign policy rests on a public understanding and a public willingness to back policies.”
Loss of ad revenue has led to cutbacks in newspapers’ international coverage and investigative journalism, Hoge noted. International news is “declining fastest” with the “smallest audience.” While there are many “enterprising and vigorous pilot efforts,” such as GlobalPost based in Boston, he warned that “none are on a scale to make up for what’s happening in the mainline of news.”
In addition to the problem of funding, Hoge said, another barrier to foreign reporting is limited audience interest: “We don’t have a public that seems to understand or care that this is important.” Without public interest, there will be a “huge gap in the flow of information on which citizens can make their judgments.”
Looking forward, Hoge sees national and local newspapers as being able to survive, but “the all-purpose general newspaper may not be viable,” as much of what they once provided can be effectively presented in different ways on the Web.
This article was written by Janell Sims and the photos taken by Leighton Walter Kille, both of the Shorenstein Center.