The Rise of the New News: A Case Study of Two Root Causes of the Modern Scandal Coverage

By Marvin Kalb

A paper by Marvin Kalb, former Shorenstein Center director and veteran reporter, analyzes the press coverage in the first few weeks of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Kalb attempts to answer the question: what is wrong with American journalism? Why has it lost the trust and confidence of so many of its readers and viewers? He argues that the answer does not lie in the sudden collapse of professional standards. Rather, it lies in the rise in recent decades of a host of challenges posed primarily by (1) new technologies and (2) a recent restructuring of the economic underpinning of the industry. Both of these challenges have forced a revolutionary transformation of the news business from a public service into a predominantly commercial enterprise, where profit tends to trump service. Part one features Michael Isikoff, an investigative reporter for Newsweek magazine, who finds himself scooped by the new technology of the Internet on a highly competitive story about President Clinton and a White House intern. Subsequent sections provide illustrations and explanations of the new technology, the new economics and the new approach to news.

Download the paper (PDF).