Today the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University released a massive report on digital journalism, and the main theme derived from the 139 page document is that journalists need to understand the business side of things much more than they do now.
While the report stops short of explicitly stating that media companies need to find out what advertisers like and have writers direct their pens (keyboards, whatever) in that direction, it does say that journalists should be more educated about what drives ad dollars, and adjust on the fly. Bill Grueskin, a dean at Columbia and a co-author of the report, tells The New York Times:
We’re not suggesting that journalists get marching orders from advertisers. We are suggesting that journalists get a much better understanding of why so many advertising dollars have left the traditional news media business.
This is the stark reality facing the digital media world: Online ads don’t mean as much to consumers, therefore digital sites are going to falter. With that in mind, writers must understand more about what happens behind the scenes, even though most of them have no interest in that at all.
But maybe their bosses need to stress that if they don’t open up to the business of the company, there won’t be a company left to write for. That will probably grab their attention.