While Miami Herald Editor Tom Fiedler has been relentlessly preaching the wonders of newspapers' convergence onto radio, TV, and, most importantly, the Internet, the Palm Beach Post got the attention this week. Editor & Publisher's Steve Outing wrote about the Post's web-feedin', bloggin', multi-taskin' reporters in his recent column. He singled out columnists Frank Cerabino and Leslie "Yummy" Streeter, assistant business editor Greg Stepanich, and deputy photo editor John Lipinot as folks who make the old-school reporter seem "lazy." But he gave the most attention to cops reporter Rochelle E.B. Gilken, whose Pulpish writings have been featured on this here site on a few occasions. She's a reporter, Internet feeder, blogger, and football fantasy columnist all in one. "I think that Gilken is the archtypical example of the modern newspaper reporter," Outing writes. "While not every reporter today is as busy as her, nor has as many cross-media responsibilities yet, the newspaper reporting profession is clearly headed in her direction."
No doubt Gilken is smokin' -- and I know first-hand how this convergence thing can up your workload. And anybody who doesn't live in a dirt hut knows this Internet thing holds the fundamental future of American journalism. But calling the reporters of, say, the 70's and 80's lazy by comparison is off-base. There have always been lazy newspaper people, but reporters have been notorious for working ridiculous hours since the days of Citizen Kane and The Front Page. My father was a reporter and he worked so much I wasn't sure what he looked like until he showed up at my high school graduation. The obsessive workaholic journalist is a damn cliche -- and "multi-tasking" didn't have anything to do with creating it. Only in the past they were digging up information instead of feeding the web.
Something's got to give. There is no doubt the print version of newspapers is going to be slightly diminished as we go more and more Internet happy. Investigative and in-depth journalism will undoubtedly suffer some setbacks as well (and there's not much room for loss in that department). Anybody who tells you otherwise is blowing smoke up a place where the sun doesn't shine. It's a precarious balancing act -- and the future of journalism depends on how well the transition is made.
That's why great leadership (whatever the hell that might be) is needed at newspapers now more than ever.