Paul Mulshine had a good column in the Wall Street Journal recently defending traditional journalism (newspapers) and criticizing the amateur bloggers that are putting them out of business.
He makes the point that because most bloggers aren't paid for their work they'll be less willing to, say, sit through a three hour school committee meeting and summarize the key points in an easy to read article. So in the future, the casual follower of events at the school will be left unaware of what transpired at the school committee meeting.
I agree with the Mr. Mulshine that, generally speaking, this is scary and would no doubt be a bad thing.
Here's where we differ: it's not going to happen.
Blogs and newspapers have fundamentally identical business models; they generate attention or "eyeballs" that can be monetized in the form of advertising fees. Some also charge nominal access fees though typically this doesn't generate significant revenue relative to ads. On a macro level it is this business model that dictates what does and doesn't get reported or blogged on. To make money, editors and bloggers have to answer a simple question: what will generate attention? If an article on the school committee meeting will generate eyeballs, then it will be reported on, or monetized.
Newspapers are disappearing not because people don't care about the school committee meeting, they're disappearing because people's attention is shifting online. Quickly. And the scalability of online advertising doesn't change the underlying business model.
Because many bloggers are unpaid, amateur, dishonest and uninteresting, Mr. Mulshine assumes that the industry will remain this way. But assuming there's always demand for information from honest, reliable sources, the blogging industry will slowly morph into more of what we know as traditional journalism, only better.
As is true with most industry changes, I think we'll find that the maturation of blogs and web content and the absence of newspapers is good for everyone -- including newspaper reporters.