A few weeks ago, the media economics professor Robert G. Picard argued that, in order to justify themselves and their profession, journalists need to create more economic value in their everyday work. (“If the news business is to survive,” he wrote, “we must find ways to alter journalism’s practice and skills to create new economic value.”) Last week, Nieman Watchdog’s Dan Froomkin declared that “playing it safe” is killing American newspapers: “We need to come to terms with the fact that one reason we’re having such a tough time is that we are still fundamentally failing to deliver the value of our newsroom to Internet users.”
At stake in both pieces—and in the several similar ones that have been posted and published in the past weeks and months—is the notion of value itself. We generally discuss journalistic value in theoretical terms (intrinsic value versus instrumental value, economic value versus political value, etc.), but abstract treatments often gloss over a basic question: whether journalism can be fairly understood in terms of market value alone, or whether it does, indeed, have intrinsic value.
So, this week, we’re asking for your help in defining journalistic value at the ground level. When it comes to your local news outlet(s), what particular pieces or projects or elements—from breaking-news stories to comic strips, investigations to weather reports—have you, personally, found most valuable? Why?
Every Tuesday, CJR outlines a news-related question and opens the floor for debate. For previous News Meeting topics, click here.The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.